Friday Factoid: “Roll, Jordan, Roll”

0–By Brandon Ray

“Roll, Jordan, Roll” was written in the 18th century by a Methodist preacher. The song’s original intention refers to the River Jordan, which the Israelites had to cross to enter the Promised Land, thus allowing a life free of burdens. It was introduced to the southern Appalachian region in the early 19th century as part of the Second Great Awakening. Black slaves were introduced to the song as an attempt to instill Christianity and strip their previous religions. The slaves claimed and subverted the original Christian song to reflect their struggles. The song became a coded message for escape, where the River Jordan became synonymous with the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, which could carry slaves to the North and freedom. “Roll, Jordan, Roll” was published in Slave Songs of the United States in 1867. This song has become very influential to modern gospel and blues music.