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Scholarly Editing

The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing

2013, Volume 34

"Will not these days be by thy poets sung": Poems of the Anglo-African and National Anti-Slavery Standard, 1863–1864

Edited by Elizabeth Lorang and R. J. Weir
page 1 page 2 page 3 page 4
Complete Issue: The Anglo-African (30 January 1864)
J. R——, Jr., "Emancipation Song" The Anglo-African (30 January 1864): [4]View Poem Image
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            Tune—"John Brown."[2]


'Twas on the first of January, eighteen sixty-three— 'Twas on the first of January, eighteen sixty-three, The President proclaimed that the slaves should all go free: So we went marching on. Glory, glory, hallelujah, etc.


The Southerners wanted all the land to plant the cotton
And all the territory little niggers for to breed; But the Yankees couldn't see it; then the South she did
And we went marching on. Glory, glory, hallelujah, etc.


Then the President he called 'em, and advised 'em for to
Back into the Union by the first of sixty-three, Or he'd confiscate their property and let the slaves go free; Then we went marching on. Glory, glory, hallelujah, etc.


Now the first of January's come and passed away, But we'll keep its anniversary, and celebrate the day That brought us forth from slavery and broke its chains
And let us go marching on. Glory, glory, hallelujah, etc.


May the Lord of Hosts go with us, and the God of Jacob be Our Captain and our Leader— He will give us victory! May the flag of the Union proudly wave over land and sea, As we go marching on. Glory, glory, hallelujah, etc.


Then we'll raise aloud our voices and make the chorus
Then we'll raise aloud our voices and make the chorus
Then we'll raise aloud our voices, 'tis of freedom we will
As we go marching on. Glory, glory, hallelujah, etc.


  1. John Randolph, Jr. (1827–1890?). Randolph was born into slavery near Washington, North Carolina; freedom arrived with the Union Army (David S. Cecelski, The Fire of Freedom: Abraham Galloway and the Slaves' Civil War [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012], 74, 245 n46). Sidney Andrews described him as "a carpenter by trade and teacher by profession, radical in desire, but conservative in action, longing for much, but content to make haste slowly" (Andrews, The South since the War: As Shown by Fourteen Weeks of Travel and Observation in Georgia and the Carolinas [Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1866], 125). He worked closely with Abraham Galloway and other black activists in the region.
    A correspondent who signed himself "Freedman" reported that "Randolph's Emancipation Song" had played a part in the celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation's first anniversary in Washington, North Carolina. During the celebrations, the proclamation was read by "Miss Randolph, a little girl five years old" (Anglo-African, January 30, 1864, [2]). The program included several poems and songs, as well as a flag-raising and a great procession of more than 1,500 men, women, and children.
    One of New Bern's political leaders, Randolph was elected secretary of the State Equal Rights League in 1865 (Minutes of the Freedmen's Convention, Held in the City of Raleigh [Raleigh, NC: Standard Book and Job Office, 1866], 20). In October 1866 circumstances prevented Randolph from attending the convention—and the league's first annual meeting—but he wrote a letter urging delegates to discuss the education, political rights, and "laboring interests" of "our people" (20). He advised his associates to "show yourselves 'as harmless as doves, but as wise as serpents,' to the end that we all may be benefitted, and peace and good-will prevail" (20).
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  2. Randolph was one of many writers who fitted new words to "John Brown's Body"—an immensely popular Civil War melody associated with abolitionist martyr Brown and his militant antislavery message. See also "Father Abraham's Proclamation" (Anglo-African, October 3, 1863) and "John Brown's March" (Anglo-African, November 14, 1863).Go back
  3. A town at the juncture of the Tar and Pamlico Rivers, north of New Bern, North Carolina. Union troops under General Ambrose Burnside's command occupied Washington in March 1862 as part of a larger operation against important coastal locations. Like other occupied towns in the region, Washington attracted a population of former slaves from the surrounding areas. Vincent Colyer, former superintendent of the poor in the Department of North Carolina, estimated that there were 1,500 freedpeople at Washington, Hatteras, Carolina, and Beaufort in mid-1862 (Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation 1861–1867, ed. Ira Berlin, et al. [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990], series 1, 2:123).
    It is important to note that Anglo-African editor Robert Hamilton was at this time touring the occupied South (while his brother Thomas managed the paper). Hamilton left New York on September 17, 1863, and moved to Norfolk, Virginia, after spending two months in the region of Washington, DC. Between mid-November 1863 and late January 1864, he visited civilian communities and military camps in Virginia and North Carolina, and sent regular letters back to the Anglo-African. New Year's Eve saw him at New Bern, North Carolina (Anglo-African, January 16, 1864, [1]).
    Hamilton probably met John Randolph, Jr. when he visited Washington in December 1863 (Anglo-African, January 16, 1864, [1–2]). He certainly spent time with Randolph's colleague Abraham H. Galloway. For large sections of the Anglo-African's readership, however, the subject and dateline of the "Emancipation Song" must have been as significant as the authorial attribution "J. R——, Jr." Those who did not recognize Randolph could use "Washington, N.C." to situate the text as a variety of "Southern correspondence"—all of which furthered Hamilton's aim to unite African Americans North and South via the Anglo-African. As Debra Jackson has argued, Hamilton worked to establish his newspaper as "a critical conduit linking the free people of the North to the freemen and freedpeople of the Union-occupied areas of the Upper South during a revolutionary moment in time" (Debra Jackson, "A Black Journalist in Civil War Virginia: Robert Hamilton and the Anglo-African," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 116 [2008]: 66).
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