A Slave Song, Barbados, ca. 1770s-1780s

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Image Reference

Gloucester County Records Office (Shire Hall, Gloucester, England), Hardwicke Court Papers, GCRO list p. 29, box 58.

Caption on top reads: "An African Song or Chant,--taken down in notes by G.S. from the information of Dr. Wm. Dickson, who lived several years in the West Indies, & was secretary to a Governor of Barbadoes. A Single Negro (while at work with the rest of the gang) leads the song,and the others join in chorus at the end of every verse." Musical transcriptions of early slave songs are very rare. This work song illustrates the widespread African musical feature of call-and-response. William Dickson, who had lived in Barbados for about 13 years, from 1772, and had been secretary to the island's governor, was well acquainted with slavery and slave life in Barbados. He later joined the British abolitionist movement. The G.S. in the manuscript is Granville Sharp, a prominent member of the movement. This one-page manuscript has been published in Jerome S. Handler and Charlotte J.Frisbie, "Aspects of Slave Life in Barbados: Music and its Cultural Context," Caribbean Studies (Vol. 11, 1972), pp. 5-46.