Amazing Grace and the slave scale

One of the best things about research is finding information about something you know, but didn’t know. While reading Bound for Canaan¹ I learned the song, “Amazing Grace” was written by Rev. John Newton (1725-1807), a reformed slave captain. Perhaps seeing the slaves lay “close to each other, like books upon a shelf…cramped, in irons for the most part” (p. 19) and God’s grace made him evaluate his ways (and livelihood) and finally view the slaves as human beings, not just as product. (For he was once blind but now can see…)

This song also makes me think about how the slaves sang negro spirituals – looking to God for salvation, praising his word. While searching on YouTube for an appropriate version, I came across ordained Seventh-day Adventist minister and world-renowned vocal artist, Wintley Phipps’ explanation and version of “Amazing Grace.” He explains that negro spirituals use the pentatonic scale (the five notes on the piano keyboard) – the black keys!

Here is Mr. Phipps’ YouTube version of “Amazing Grace.”²

And the lyrics to the song:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.³

¹Fergus M. Bordewich, Bound for Canaan. The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2005).

²“Wintley Phipps and Amazing Grace” [Video]. January 4, 2007, accessed November 27, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMF_24cQqT0.

³John Newton, Constitution Society, accessed November 29, 2010. http://www.constitution.org/col/amazing_grace.htm.

lay “close to each other, like books upon a shelf…cramped, are likewise in irons for the most part…
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Published in: on November 29, 2010 at 3:41 pm  Comments (4)  

The Underground Railroad and NASA Linked

Found an interesting video link on the Underground Railroad and NASA.  Description of what the video clip is about starts at 1:20. Modern technology use — MRI  ground penetrating unit SIR8 to uncover things like artifacts begins at 2:38. Advance technology e.g. GPS, aerial photography, and satellites being used to explore and preserve the history of the Underground Railroad is at 4:41.

Thanks to  Djuan Coleon for the link.

Published in: on September 17, 2009 at 9:32 am  Leave a Comment