Notes on the songs from our 21st Southern Music Issue Sampler featuring South Carolina.
It is fitting that this Southern Music Issue (the Oxford American’s twenty-first) devoted to South Carolina should come in 2019, as the nation moves to better recognize the tragic anniversary of the first sale of enslaved Africans on American soil, in August of 1619. About forty percent of the enslaved people brought to America came through Charleston; today most African Americans have roots in the city (some estimates go as high as eighty percent). Or to put a finer point on it, as Joshunda Sanders writes in this issue, “No Black person has a family tree that has not been pruned by slavery.” Acknowledging, parsing, and reckoning with this history is the prominent theme of this South Carolina music issue—as is celebrating the immense wealth of cultural heritage that has sprung from this small, proud place.
An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.
All of the beautiful songs, the incandescent lyrics—poor translations of what we really want to say when we cry or lift our hands or close our eyes and pray. Poor translations for “God, where are you?” and “It’s all going to be okay” and “I need to feel loved right now, will you love me?” We are called to be still and know. We are called to be quiet and know. We are called to listen and know. We are called to learn and do better.