In Song: Sounds of Slavery

In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of when the importation of slaves was outlawed in the U.S., hear music from the heart of the era, "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child," performed by Clifford Reed, Johnny Mae Medlock and Julia Griffin in 1939.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

More now, as we explore the history of slavery. I wanted to bring you a feel for the music of the era. Last week, we started sharing songs from the "Sounds of Slavery" by Shane White and Graham White. It's a collection of 18 rare recordings of African-American songs, sermon and speech. Most of these recordings are from the 1930s, vocalized by folk artists who heard these tunes from former slaves. Many of the songs talk about heartache and loss, like this one: "Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child." This version is performed by Clifford Reed, Johnny Mae Medlock and Julia Griffin in 1939 in Railford, Florida.

(Soundbite of song, "Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child."

Ms. JULIA GRIFFIN (Singer): (Singing) Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.

Mr. CLIFFORD REED, Ms. JOHNNY MAE MEDLOCK and Ms. GRIFFIN (Singers): (Singing) Sometimes I feel like a motherless child. Sometimes I feel like a motherless child. Lord, Lord, I know my time ain't long. Lord, Lord, I know my time ain't long.

Ms. GRIFFIN: (Singing) Sometimes I feel like a feather in the air.

Mr. REED, Ms. MEDLOCK and Ms. GRIFFIN: (Singing) Sometimes I feel like a feather in the air. Sometimes I feel like a feather in the air. Lord, Lord, I know my time ain't long. Lord, Lord, I know my time ain't long.

Ms. GRIFFIN: (Singing) Sometimes I feel like I haven't got a friend.

Mr. REED, Ms. MEDLOCK and Ms. GRIFFIN: (Singing) Sometimes I feel like I haven't got a friend. Sometimes I feel like I haven't got a friend.

MARTIN: That was "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child," performed by Clifford Reed, Johnny Mae Medlock and Julia Griffin, recorded in 1939 in Railford, Florida.

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