Kingdom Coming (The Year of Jubilo)
DESCRIPTION: "Say, darkeys, hab you seen de massa, Wid de muff-stash on his face, Go long the road some time dis mornin' Like he gwine to leab de place?" The slaves exult that the coming of Union soldiers is chasing Master away, leaving them free (and free to rejoice)
AUTHOR: Henry Clay Work
EARLIEST DATE: 1862 (sheet music published by Root & Cady and published by S. Brainard's Sons)
KEYWORDS: slave slavery Civilwar freedom
FOUND IN: US(Ap,SE,So)
REFERENCES (19 citations):
Work-SongsOf-Henry-Clay-Work, pp. 161-164, "Kingdom Coming" (1 text, 1 tune, a copy of the original sheet music)
Randolph 230, "The Year of Jubelo" (1 text, 1 tune)
Arnold-FolkSongsofAlabama, p. 11, "Jubilo" (1 short text, 1 tune)
Brown/Belden/Hudson-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore2 232, "Kingdom Coming" (3 texts)
Brown/Schinhan-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore4 232, "Kingdom Coming" (1 excerpt, 1 tune)
Roberts-SangBranchSettlers, #49, "Kingdom a-Comin'" (1 text, 1 tune, very heavily folk processed in both text and tune)
Jackson-PopularSongsOfNineteenthCenturyAmerica, pp. 106-109, "Kingdom Coming" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lawrence-MusicForPatriotsPoliticiansAndPresidents, p. 392, "Kingdom Coming" (1 text plus a copy of the sheet music cover)
Silber-SongsOfTheCivilWar, pp. 317-319, "Kingdom Coming (Year of Jubilo)" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-SoldierSongsAndHomeFrontBalladsOfCivilWar, pp. 92-93, "Kingdom Coming" (1 text, 1 tune)
Spaeth-WeepSomeMoreMyLady, pp. 114-115, "Kingdom Coming" (1 text, 1 tune)
Greenway-AmericanFolksongsOfProtest, p. 104, "The Year of Jubalo" (1 text)
Cray-AshGrove, p. 28, "KIngdom Coming" (1 tune plus a text excerpt)
Colonial-Dames-AmericanWarSongs, pp. 100-101, "Kingdom Coming" (1 text)
Wolf-AmericanSongSheets, #1188, p. 82, "Kingdom Coming" (12 references)
Messerli-ListenToTheMockingbird, pp. 120-122, "Kingdom Coming (Year of Jubilo)" (1 text)
Emerson-StephenFosterAndCo, pp. 39-40, "Kingdom Coming" (1 text)
Heart-Songs, pp. 152-153, "Kingdom Coming" (1 text, 1 tune)
ST R230 (Full)
Sam Connor, "Massa Run Away" (instrumental), on OldTrad1, FarMtns1)
Frank Jenkins & his Pilot Mountaineers [Oscar Jenkins, Frank Jenkins, Ernest V. Stoneman], "In the Year of Jubilo" (Conqueror, unissued, 1929)
Chubby Parker, "The Year of Jublio" (Conqueror 7897, 1931)
Pete Seeger, "Kingdom Coming" (on PeteSeeger28)
cf. "Babylon Is Falling" (theme)
Wandering Willie (File: CAFS2484)
The Pauper's Cowhides (File: Wels067)
Capture of Sally Davis ("O Ladies, have you seen Jeff Davis) (cited in Wolf-AmericanSongSheets p. 18)
The Draft I a Coming ("Say, Gents, hab you seen de enrolling officer?") (Wolf-AmericanSongSheets p. 34)
Jubal E. ("Oh, Gray backs, did you see Old Early, with his Beef steak colored face," by John L. Zieber) (Wolf-AmericanSongSheets p. 79)
Old Time ("Say, Classmates, have you seen a yagger WIth a gray beard on his chin") (Henry Randall Waite, _Carmina Collegensia: A Complete Collection of the Songs of the American Colleges_ first edition 1868, expanded edition, Oliver Ditson, 1876, p. 124)
Song of the Bolt ("Oh! Freshmen, have you got done laughing At the Doctor's sad mistake") (Henry Randall Waite, _Carmina Collegensia: A Complete Collection of the Songs of the American Colleges_ first edition 1868, expanded edition, Oliver Ditson, 1876, p. 120)
Massa's Gone Away
NOTES [680 words]: This was (according to some source I have now lost -- perhaps Jackson?) the first song by Henry Clay Work (1832-1884) to be published. Work was a fervent abolitionist; his father had been jailed for his activities with the underground railroad. One day the younger Work showed up at Root and Cady. George F. Root described him as "a quiet and rather solemn-looking young man, poorly clad," but was astonished by the song he brought along.
"Kingdom Coming" was taken up by the Christy Minstrels in 1862, and soon became a runaway bestseller. Work's career was off to a fine start.
The "Year of Jubilo," according to Finson, p. 211, is dialect for "Year of Jubilee," the English name for the the time, every fifty years, when slaves were freed (see, e.g., Leviticus 25:10).
In a rather hilarious twist, the polemic War Songs and Poems of the Southern Confederacy (1904?) publishes this as "The Contraband," along with an explanation of how slaves loved their masters! Work's name, naturally, is omitted; it is offered as "A song of Mississippi negros in the Vicksburg campaign."
I have never seen an explanation of how this song originated, but there is an incident which might have played a tangential role, and which happened fairly early. In 1862, in the western theater of the war, Confederate commander Albert Sydney Johnston had played a vast game of bluff, occupying a line in Kentucky and northern Tennessee with forces he knew to be inadequate to the task. After U. S. Grant broke the center of his line by capturing Forts Henry and Donelson, Johnston had no choice but to move the rest of his lines sharply south (Harpers, p. 240). In the process, he had to abandon his main supply base at Nashville (February 24, 1862; CivilWarAlmanac, pp. 86-87). Because Johnston had been told by the local commander that Donelson would hold, he was forced into a surprisingly disorganized retreat (Harpers, pp. 240-241)
When Federal troops entered Nashville, a reporter went to one of the leading hotels and pounded on the door. According to Foote, p. 217, "He kept on ringing, with the persistency of a tired and hungry man within reach of food and a clean bed. At last he was rewarded. A Negro swung the door ajar and stood there smiling broadly. 'Massa done gone souf,' he said, still grinning."
What's more, there *was* "a smoke way up de ribber" at that time. It came from two Confederate gunboats being burned (Foote, p. 216) -- but the civilians could hardly know that, and they *did* know that Federal gunboats had been responsible for the capture of Fort Henry and had attacked (though they had been repelled at) Fort Donelson.
Root, pp. 137-138, tells of how this song came to be published: "One day early in the war a quiet and rather solemn-looking young man, poorly clad, was sent up to my room from the store with a song for me to examine. I looked at it and then at him in astonishment. It was 'Kingdom Coming,' -- elegant in manuscript, full of bright, good sense and comical situations in its 'darky' dialect -- the words fitting the melody almost as aptly and neatly as Gilbert fits Sulliavan -- the melody decidedly good and taking, and the whole exactly suited to the times. 'Did you write this -- words and music?" I asked. A gentle 'Yes' was the answer. 'What is your business, if I may enquire?' 'I am a printer.' 'Would you rather write music than set type?' 'Yes.' 'Well, if this is a specimen of what you can do, I think you may give up the printing business. He liked the idea very much, and an arrangement with us [i.e. Root and Cady, the publishers] was soon made. He needed some musical help that I could give him, and we needed such songs as he could write. The connection, which continued some years, proved very profitable both to him and to us. This was Henry C. Work.... Mr. Work was a slow, pains-taking writer [at least by comparison to Root, who often talks of dashing off a song in minutes], being from one to three weeks upon a song; but when the work was done it was like a piece of fine mosaic, especially in the fitting of words to music." - RBW
Last updated in version 6.1
- CivilWarAlmanac: [no author listed], The Civil War Almanac, World Almanac/Bison Books, 1983
- Jon W. Finson, The Voices That Are Gone: Themes in Nineteenth-Century American Popular Song, Oxford University Press, 1994
- Foote: Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative (Volume I: Fort Sumter to Perryville) (Random House, 1958)
- Harpers: Alfred H. Guernsey and Henry M. Alden, Harper's Pictorial History of the Great Rebellion in the United States, 1866 (I use the facsimile published by The Fairfax Press as Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War; this is undated but was printed in the late Twentieth Century)
- Root: George F. Root, The Story of a Musical Life, 1891; I use the 1970(?) Da Capo reprint
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