Nursery Rhymes

Follow the drinking gourd

Follow the drinking gourd Lyrics

The words and lyrics of this African American Slave song begins with "When the sun comes back and the first quail calls" as the first line of the song. The words, tune and lyrics of the "Follow the drinking gourd" song were passed on verbally and the names of the author and composer are therefore unknown.

Follow the drinking gourd Song Meaning and History
The history of the famous "Follow the drinking gourd" song lyrics date back to the Slave Plantations of the 1800's. Meaning: This famous song was sung by slaves with a secret code in the lyrics to help slaves who were trying to escape to freedom. The words and lyrics were like a map and a timetable for the 'Underground Railroad'. The "drinking gourd" was the code name for "the big dipper" the group of seven bright stars in the sky of the constellation Ursa Major. Four stars form the shape of a bowl, or vessel made from the shell of a gourd, and three stars  form the shape of a handle in the outline of "the big dipper" that points toward the north star. The lyrics of the song let fugitive slaves know that they had to follow the "drinking gourd” to find north, and their way to freedom. We have placed "Follow the drinking gourd" in the category of African American Spirituals, aka Negro Spirituals and Slave Songs.

Follow the drinking gourd Song
Title: Follow the drinking gourd *** Name of Composer: Unknown *** Name Author / Writer of Lyrics: Unknown *** Category: Slave Songs aka African American Spirituals or Negro Spirituals

Follow the drinking gourd Lyrics

When the sun comes back and the first quail calls,
Follow the Drinking Gourd.
For the old man is waiting for to carry you to freedom,
If you follow the Drinking Gourd.

The river bank makes a very good road,
The dead trees show you the way,
Left foot, peg foot, traveling on
Follow the Drinking Gourd.

The river ends between two hills,
Follow the Drinking Gourd.
There's another river on the other side,
Follow the Drinking Gourd.

Where the great big river meets the little river,
Follow the Drinking Gourd.
For the old man is awaiting to carry you to freedom if you
Follow the Drinking Gourd.

Meaning of the lyrics to 'Follow the drinking gourd' continued...
The meaning of the lyrics "When the sun comes back and the first quail calls" refer to the best time to travel - in the winter and spring. The "Drinking Gourd" was a hollowed out gourd used by slaves as a water dipper. "The old man is waiting for to carry you to freedom" lyrics relate to Peg Leg Joe a 'conductor' on the Underground Railroad. Peg Leg Joe and other 'conductors' marked dead trees and other landmarks with the sign of a human left foot to help guide fugitive slaves along the escape route along the headwaters of the Tombigbee River,  down the Tennessee River to the Ohio River. The Ohio River was the dividing line between the slave states and freedom in the non-slave states.

Information about the Song
Title of Song: Follow the drinking gourd
Author of Lyrics: Unknown
Nationality of Author: African American
Name of Music Composer: Unknown
Song Category: Slave Songs aka African American Spirituals or Negro Spirituals
First Line of Song: "When the sun comes back and the first quail calls"
First Publication Date: 1867. The lyrics of the song were first published in 'Slave Songs of the United States'.

Site Index

Privacy Statement

Cookie Policy

© 2017 Siteseen Ltd