Follow the Drinking Gourd


Follow the Drinking Gourd
A printable version, complete with coloring page and crossword puzzle, is available here.

"Find the north, and you'll find freedom."

But which direction was north?

Slaves knew the promise of freedom lay to the north, but they didn't know how to get there. In a desperate effort to keep their slaves from running away, masters tried to prevent them from learning any directions.

"They find out which was is east, then they figure out west. The next thing you know, they figure out which way is north," went the old saying. 

Yet the deliberate attempts to keep slaves ignorant, and therefore enslaved, were destined to fail. Slowly the word spread that to find freedom, one had only to look to the skies. With the north star pointing the way, thousands began the perilous journey to freedom. Those who could not or would not attempt the journey at least wanted to ensure that their children knew how to escape.

So, as soon as slave children were old enough to understand, their parents would take them outside, point out the big dipper -- the "drinking gourd" -- and teach them this song. For at the end of the "drinking gourd" was the north star. And the path of the north star was the path to freedom.

Lyrics (Traditional)
When the sun comes back,
     and the first Quail calls,
Follow the drinking gourd,
For the old man is waiting
     for to carry you to freedom
If you follow the drin