Let Freedom Sing: Music of the Abolitionists


Watch The Abolitionists Extended Preview on PBS. See more from American Experience.

“Any good crusade requires singing,” reformers like to say, and in the 19th Century, no cause was more righteous than in the decades-long crusade to abolish slavery.


As WGBH’s American Experience presents The Abolitionists on television, Classical New England brings you Let Freedom Sing: The Music of The Abolitionists. To hear the program, click on "Listen" above.

Let Freedom Sing, hosted by NPR’s Noah Adams, chronicles of the idealistic artists, uncompromising personalities, and powerful music of the era, and looks at how these forces combined to turn abolitionism from a scorned fringe movement into a nation-changing force.

Hutchinson Family Singers (1845; unknown artist; from the Metropolitan Museum, New York, via Wikimedia Commons)
Aided by Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee State University musicologist Dale Cockrell, Let Freedom Sing profiles:
  • Henry Russell, the barnstorming Anglo-Jewish pianist and singer dubbed the master of “chutzpah and huzzah,”
  • the Milford, New Hampshire-based Hutchinson Family Singers, remembered as America’s first protest singers,
  • Stephen Collins Foster, America’s greatest – and most misunderstood – songwriter of the 19th century, who brought the rhetoric of the Abolitionists into America’s middle-class piano parlors,
  • Chicago publisher turned composer George F. Root, author of the anthemic "Battle Cry of Freedom,"
  • and songwriter Henry Clay Work, author of the Emancipation anthem "Kingdom Coming."

Hear Let Freedom Sing: Music of the Abolitionists on Classical New England, Saturday, Jan. 12, at 6pm, and Sunday, Jan. 13, at noon, and by clicking on "Listen" above.

To watch The Abolitionists, visit American Experience.

Music included in Let Freedom Sing:

Traditional - Steal Away
Fisk Jubilee Singers

Anon. - Come Join the Abolitionists
Deborah Anne Goss

Henry Russell - The Maniac
George Shirley, baritone; William Bolcom, piano

Jesse Hutchinson, Jr. - The Old Granite State
New Hutchinson Family Singers

Jesse Hutchinson, Jr. - Get off the Track
New Hutchinson Family Singers

Stephen Foster - Variations on Old Folks At Home
Noel Lester, piano

Stephen Foster - My Old Kentucky Home
George Shirley, baritone; William Bolcom, piano

Stephen Foster - My Old Kentucky Home arr. for Solo Flute
Paula Robison, Flute

Stephen Foster - Hard Times Come Again No More
Thomas Hampson, baritone; Jay Ungar violin; Molly Mason, bass; Tony Trishka, banjo; David Alpher, piano; Mark Rust & Garrison Keillor, background vocals

George F. Root - Where Home Is
The Harmoneion Singers: Peter Basquin, harmonium

George F. Root - Battle Cry of Freedom
John Cowan, vocals; Butch Baldassari, mandolin; Mark Combs, fiddle; Bryon House, bass; Jeffrey Taylor; accordion

George F. Root - Battle Cry of Freedom (reprise)
Mar Gardner, banjo; Rex Rideout, fiddle

Henry Clay Work - Kingdom Coming
Clifford Jackson, baritone; Joan Morris, mezzo-soprano; William Bolcom, piano; The Camerata Chorus Of Washington

Henry Clay Work – Who Shall Rule This American Nation?
Clifford Jackson, baritone; William Bolcom, piano; The Camerata Chorus Of Washington

Traditional – De Gospel Train (Get On Board)
Fisk Jubilee Singers

Jesse Hutchinson, Jr: - Get Off The Track
'The Proper Ladies -Deborah Goss and Anabel Graetz


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