Translating a Hidden Language–Victorian Style

This old world is not my home.
I didn’t come here to stay.
A few more rises and the setting of the sun.
And I’ll be on my way.

Jesus In Heaven Artwork:  Original Artist Unknown

May loving angels guard
and keep thee,
ever pure as thou art now.
~Anonymous

These are the lyrics to a gospel song (a.k.a. Negro Spiritual) which are still heard in several Christian churches today. However, as in all things, different things have different meanings to different people based on cultures within cultures.

To the slaves who wanted to escape north, this song, perhaps, became one of the anthems to the Underground Railroad.

However, Underground Railroad songs remain a staple of African American culture. To many southerners today, these same spirituals mean  that Christians will go to a better resting place where: “the streets are paved with gold,” “a place where you will never grow old,” and the lyrics above, “over yonder where Jesus is.”

To die as the Wilkes Flagg family and Mother Mathilda by giving of one’s own wealth in service to others and for the betterment of community is a badge of honor–not in this life but in the life afterwards. “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” This is a major principle taught in Christianity. Many Southerners who the world sees as financially poor are in fact “rich.” The Christian cultural message, in other words, has been lost in translation to 21st Century academia. For the end goal to many Christians is neither Wall Street nor main street, but literally, the streets of Heaven.

As a Living Historian, I want to translate the language of a lesser known 19th Century culture within a culture that transcended shallow earthly things–a culture of people who continue to invest in people.

Living to be 120 years old for honoring my parents,
Ann DeWitt

Reference:  Matthew 5:12 / Exodus 20 KJV

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