Follow the Drinking Gourd

"Follow the Drinking Gourd" was a song written by a conductor named Peg Leg Joe. It was a guide for slaves on how to escape up north via the Underground Railroad. The song only showed them how to get to the Ohio River where Peg Leg Joe would meet them and give them directions to get to the next house. Here’s how the song goes:

Follow the drinking gourd!

Follow the drinking gourd

For the old man is a-waiting for to carry you to freedom

If you follow the drinking gourd

When the sun comes back, and the first quail calls,

Follow the drinking gourd

For the old man is a-waiting for to carry you to freedom

If you follow the drinking gourd

The riverbank makes a very good road,

The dead trees will show you the way

Left foot, peg foot, traveling on,

Follow the drinking gourd

The river ends between two hills,

Follow the drinking gourd

There’s another river on the other side,

Follow the drinking gourd

When the great big river meets the little river,

Follow the drinking gourd

For the old man is a-waiting for to carry you to freedom

If you follow the drinking gourd
In the song, if you look at the words, the "drinking gourd" means the Big Dipper, when the song says "when the sun comes back and the first quail calls" meant that they were to travel in the spring. "The dead trees will show you the way" meant that Joe would mark a left foot and a peg foot on dead trees along the way. The first river that ended between two hills was the Tombigbee River; the other river on the other side was the Tennessee River. Finally, the great big river was the Ohio River.
 
 
 
 
 

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