Reparations Archive

Our Most Recent Spiritual Performance

Oh, I Woke Up This Morning

as a congregational hymn

STLT 153.

This was a Freedom song based on an earlier gospel song (With My Mind Stayed on Jesus), and which originated as a spiritual.

The original spiritual expresses an internal state of being with lyrics like “Can’t hate your neighbor in your min’ If you keep it stayed on Jesus.”  According to one account, the lyric was changed in 1961 by Rev. Robert Wesley during time spent in a Mississippi jail as a Freedom Rider.  “Jesus” was changed to “freedom” and more active passages like “walkin’ and talkin'” were added.  It became an iconic song of the Civil Rights movement.  The change from “Jesus” to “freedom” might afford a clue to the significance of the original spiritual’s coded meaning, perhaps to keep one’s spirits up and one’s heart pure during the struggle for freedom.