"Michael, Row the Boat Ashore" is an African American spiritual first noted during the American Civil War on one of the Sea Islands of South Carolina, St.Helena Island. It was sung by former enslaved persons whose owners had abandoned the island.
Michael row de boat ashore, Hallelujah!
Michael boat a gospel boat, Hallelujah!
I wonder where my mudder deh. [there]
See my mudder on de rock gwine home.
On de rock gwine home in Jesus’ name.
Michael boat a music boat.
Gabriel blow de trumpet horn.
O you mind your boastin’ talk.
Boastin’ talk will sink your soul.
Brudder, lend a helpin’ hand.
Sister, help for trim dat boat.
Jordan stream is wide and deep.
Jesus stand on t’ oder side.
I wonder if my maussa deh.
My fader gone to unknown land.
O de Lord he plant his garden deh.
He raise de fruit for you to eat.
He dat eat shall neber die.
When de riber overflow.
O poor sinner, how you land?
Riber run and darkness comin’.
Sinner row to save your soul.
Charles Pickard Ware was an Harvard educated abolitionist whom come to supervise plantations on on St. Helena Island from 1862 to 1865. He wrote down the lyrics of the song as he heard freedmen sing it. The song was later published in 1887 in Slave Songs of the United States.