Attribution time! This month we’re focusing on Canaan Land - a traditional spiritual that’s been sung throughout history to call attention to the struggles of Black people. The concept of “Canaan” has been used since biblical times to refer to the concept of the Promised land, a place where folks could be free from oppression. During the Civil Rights movement in the 60s, the lyrics were changed in some interpretations to “Freedom land”, as well. Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon writes, “One word, ‘freedom,’ documents the time period. One would not have been able to sing freedom during the time when slavery was an integral part of this country. By the twentieth century, the 1960s, we had cleared enough space with our living and struggling and dying and going on that, no matter what, we could say and sing: ‘I want my freedom now!’.”
Our arrangement of this song is based on a version originally recorded by Mahalia Jackson, pictured here.