TEXT

Run, Mary, Run

African-American spirituals, such as this one, are religious folksongs. They are associated with enslavement, and are often seen as protest songs.
Author
Unknown
Grade Level

This text is part of the Teaching Hard History Text Library and aligns with Key Concepts 5, 9 and 10.

Run, Mary, run 
Run, Mary, run 
Oh, run, Mary, run 
I know de udder world is not like dis 

 Fire in de Eas’ an’ fire in de Wes’ 
I know de udder world is not like dis 
Boun’ to burn de wilderness 

I know de udder world is not like dis 
Jordan river is a river to cross 
I know de udder world is not like dis 
Stretch yo’ rod an’ come across 
I know de udder world is not like dis 

 Swing low, sweet chariot into de Eas’ 
I know de udder world is not like dis 
Let God’s children have some peace 
I know de udder world is not like dis 
Swing low, sweet chariot in de Wes 
I know de udder world is not like dis 
Let God’s children have some res’ 
I know de udder world is not like dis 

 Swing low, sweet chariot in de Norf 
I know de udder world is not like dis 
Give me de gol’ widout de dross 
I know de udder world is not like dis 
Swing low, sweet chariot in de Sou’ 
I know de udder world is not like dis 
Let God’s children sing and shout 
I know de udder world is not like dis 

 If it was de judgment day 
I know de udder world is not like dis 

Ev’ry sinner would want to pray 
I know de udder world is not like dis 
Ol’ trouble it come like a gloomy cloud 
I know de udder world is not like dis 
Gadder thick an’ thunder loud 
I know de udder world is not like dis 

Fire in the east and fire in the west 
I know the other world is not like this 
Bound to burn the wilderness 
I know the other world is not like this 

Run, Mary, run 
Run, Mary, run 
Oh, run, Mary, run 
I know the other world is not like this 

Jordan's river is a river to cross 
I know the other world is not like this 
Stretch your rod and come across 
I know the other world is not like this 

Source
This text is in the public domain. Retrieved from https://www.negrospirituals.com/songs/run_mary_run.htm.
Text Dependent Questions
  1. Question
    “I know de udder world is not like dis.” To what is this referring?
    Answer
    The “udder world” refers to Heaven or the afterlife; “dis” refers to their current enslaved condition.
  2. Question
    Crossing the River Jordan refers to the Israelites entering into God’s “Promised Land,” or leaving the physical for the spiritual world, after 40 years of “wandering in the desert.” What message does this line have for enslaved people?
    Answer
    This line implies that they can enter into Heaven, but also that it is a long and difficult path.
  3. Question
    How does this spiritual parallel the lives of enslaved people with Biblical stories?
    Answer
    Just as the Israelites had to wander in the desert for 40 years, seen as a punishment, the enslaved people also have to endure physical turmoil before they can “have some peace” in Heaven. The title figure “Mary” could be in reference to Jesus’ mother, who had to endure a difficult journey to Bethlehem.
  4. Question
    How does this spiritual illustrate the ways in which enslaved people resisted their enslavement?
    Answer
    This song is expressing hope for freedom in a spiritual sense. They are also criticizing their enslavement when they say “I know de udder world is not like dis.” The encouragement of Mary to “run” can also be interpreted as encouraging enslaved people to escape slavery, which would be an arduous journey towards freedom.
  5. Question
    The theme of “running,” the song urging “run, Mary, run,” can have both a literal and metaphorical significance. A) What does running mean in terms of their enslavement for their physical bodies? B) What does running mean in terms of their spiritual lives?
    Answer
    This song could be an encouragement to run away or escape slavery by going north.
    By telling Mary to “run,” it could be seen as encouragement to endure her circumstances and continue to pursue her Christian faith.
Reveal Answers
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