Spirituals Archive

I Got a Robe


Performed 01/15/2023, by the Chalice Choir

During slavery, direct expressions of protest were of course, dangerous.  So, in singing, slaves often went thru considerable lengths to disguise the true meaning of their lyrics.  In “I Got a Robe”, there is overt protest about basic necessities, like shoes and clothing, that were often rare in slave quarters.  The song boldly proclaims, “ALL God’s children got shoes” (and robes, and harps and crowns) that they will eventually have in heaven.  But in the wonderful line, “everybody talking 'bout heaven, ain’t going there”, the slaves (who refer to themselves in this spiritual as “All God’s children”) emphasize the hypocrisy of the slave owner, who claims to be a Christian by attending church every morning, talking about Jesus and Heaven – but then retuning to the plantation to run a very “un-heavenly” and often, immoral enterprise.  In subtle, somewhat veiled language here, the slave turns the tables on his oppressor, and reverses the power hierarchy.