Should a slave-era song be used as a sports UK soccer chant?

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tags: slavery, UK soccer chant



Thumbnail Image -  Twickenham Stadium, CC BY-SA 2.0

“I looked over Jordan, what do I see, Coming for to carry me home. A band of angels coming after me, Coming for to carry me home.”

It is one of the most recognized African-American spirituals. Revered, emotive, and rooted in the horrors of US slavery and the oppression of race.

But for the last three decades, the familiar melody of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” has also been the adopted anthem of England’s rugby union team, its haunting chorus a common echo in stadiums where the national team plays.

And therein lines the problem.

Is it right that a slave-era song — one which is believed to be a coded message for those slaves seeking the underground railroad to freedom — is used to galvanize a national team to sporting glory?

Should lyrics which are about suffering and despair be sung by thousands of England fans who are often middle-class, often white?

“A slap in the face to the history of slavery,” is how Cornell William Brooks, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), described the use of this spiritual in a sporting arena.




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