The song was passed down orally long before it was ever recorded or written down. There are two main theories on who Michael is. Survey says there’s a difference. Please also read our Privacy Notice and Terms of Use, which became effective December 20, 2019. To learn more or opt-out, read our Cookie Policy. That’s not as obvious as it sounds. Why? MICHAEL ROW THE BOAT ASHORE: The Highwaymen. Du Bois, in his classic 1903 collection of essays “The Souls of Black Folk,” would call “sorrow songs.”. Maybe it was one of the first songs you learned yourself. It is believed that Michael helps ferry souls of the dead to heaven. “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” is an African-American spiritual. Copyright © 2020 Deseret News Publishing Company. Are you a Republican, or a Fox News Republican? We’ve covered the rowing part–to get to the mainland. The song was sung by former slaves whose owners had abandoned the island before the Union navy arrived to enforce a … The "Michael" in the song is probably the archangel Michael. The star of "Parks and Rec" and "Guardians of the Galaxy" was also mocked for his Christian faith. Note other religious images (Jordan River, chills the body but not the soul, milk and honey). Who was Michael, and why was rowing the boat ashore such a great achievement? As the anonymous medieval English homily “In Praise of St. Michael” (42.14) puts it, he “leads the soul of each and every true man through the gates of eternal life into the kingdom of heaven.”. GiveOrLooseIt {Guitar Central} Recommended for you. Fred Rogers possibly wrote individual letters to hundreds of thousands of people. It was first mentioned in 1863 as a song sung by black slaves in the Georgia Sea Islands. St. Helena is a center of the linguistically distinct African American “Gullah” culture that, incidentally, also produced the song “Kumbaya.” (“Kum Bah Yah” is “Come By Here” in Gullah creole.). In addition to Pete Seeger's version, the song has also been recorded by Harry Belafonte (purchase/download), Peter, Paul, and Mary, and the Nields (purchase/download). The full song, however, talks about crossing the River Jordan. “Michael” is mentioned in the letters of some teachers who went to the islands in 1862-63. In ancient Greek mythology, Charon (or, more accurately, Kharon) was the ferryman of the dead. How did “nuts” and “bananas” come to mean “crazy”? #1 in '61. The nearby Red River seems to have reminded him not only of the Jordan River but also of the Prophet Elijah’s ascent into heaven in a chariot from the Jordan’s east bank, which is described in 2 Kings 2:1-18: But the Jordan River, over which the Israelites crossed into the Promised Land, symbolized not only postmortem salvation.