The song “Amazing Grace” has a surprisingly deep racial history

Published On June 26, 2015 | By Admin | Politics, The latest posts, video, What's happening right now

Twitter went crazy this week as President Barack Obama broke into song during the eulogy for slain Senator Clementa Pinckney.  The senator was among the nine killed by Dylann Roof, a 21-year old terrorist with a white supremacist agenda.

During the eulogy, the president began singing “Amazing Grace,” much to the delight of those in attendance and those watching around the world.  Ironically, Amazing Grace has a very rich and interesting history, much of it linked to regrets that the author of the song had about being involved in the slave trade.

The author of the song, John Newton, wrote the hymn as a reflection of his years of participating in the evils of slavery.  According to author Glyn Wilson, many people sing the song without knowing the origins, which he sees to be a serious problem:

It is a song of repentance for Newton’s regrets at the misery he had inflicted on the thousands of human cargo dragged in chains across the sea to work themselves to death in the sugar cane fields and processing operations for nothing, so that British lords and ladies could enjoy refined sugar in their afternoon cups of tea.

The fact that they sing it still, not knowing its meaning, is one of those great ironies of a life born of ignorance, where little children are still led to believe they are better than someone else because of the color of their skin.

Michael Imhotep, radio show host and CEO of the African History Network, says that many blacks may be misguided when they choose to sing the song that has been taught to them since birth.

Amazing Grace was written by John Newton who was a Slave Trader and wrote about an “Amazing Grace” of God he found to forgive him on his sins. He later became an abolitionist. He was calling himself a “wretch” because of the business of human cargo he was involved in. Today, Negros sing the song and call themselves a “wretch” because they don’t understand history.

Newton wrote the first words to his song in 1748 after he called out for mercy when his ship was being battered by waves.  However, even after writing the song, he continued in the slave trade for another 6 – 7 years.  Though Newton later became an abolitionist, he never connected his song to the anti-slavery movement.

You can read more about the history of the song here.

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