songs about slavery
Entertainment & Playlists

30 Songs About Slavery (Famous Tracks)

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Written By Will Fenton
Entertainment & Playlists

30 Songs About Slavery (Famous Tracks)

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Whether about African-American slavery or being a slave to your own emotions, songs about slavery hit differently.  

Not only can you relate to these songs deeply, but you also feel a sense of empowerment after listening to them.

Here, we’ve compiled a slavery songs list that covers a wide range of genres and will have you playing them on a loop.

1. “Slave Song’’ by Sade

In this song, Sade Adu, the lead singer, sings from the perspective of an enslaved person who hasn’t lost hope of a free future.

Instead, through this slavery song of freedom, they pray for an improved world where their generations are free from all kinds of shackles.

2. “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar 

This is one of the most popular rap songs about overcoming obstacles and was adapted as the anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The track won 8 awards out of  17 nominations, including 2 Grammy wins.

At multiple protests, the song became a source of motivation, igniting hope and reassurance among the oppressed and the people of color that they would persevere. 

3. “Can’t Truss It” by Public Enemy

“Can’t Truss It” talks about the history of black slavery and how they can fight against oppression together.

Through the song, slavery of the modern age has also been addressed, as how rules are different for the black community compared to others.

The song explains how slavery may be different today, but it still exists in the form of having no control over your own life.

4. “Slave To The Rhythm” by Michael Jackson 

Jackson’s Robo-pop track tells the story of a woman in an abusive relationship with her husband who can’t escape it because of their children.

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Some have interpreted the song to depict how singers can’t leave their toxic relationship with the music industry.

They continue to slave to the industry because they don’t want to disappoint their fans.

5. “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke

A Change Is Gonna Come” is considered one of Sam Cooke’s best works and was even called the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement.

The song was inspired by an event in Cooke’s life in which he and his guest were turned away from a hotel for not being white.

Hence, the song speaks of hope for better times.

6. “Stand Up” by Cynthia Erivo

In this song about slavery, Cynthia tells the story of American abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who risked her life to save many from slavery.

The track tells her story and reflects her feelings of hope, strength and love for her people.

The empowering track scored nominations for a Golden Globe Award, Critics’ Choice Movie Award, and even an Academy Award, among others.

7. “Oh Freedom” by Odetta

This slave song of freedom by Odetta was released in the 1960s when racial discrimination was still a prevailing problem.

She sings about how death is better than slavery and that no one should give in to the racial discrimination society has designed for their own convenience.

The song’s sentiments still echo with the African-Americans of today, inciting a sense of hope and motivation to fight.

8. “This Is America” by Childish Gambino 

Donald glover took the internet by storm when he released this track in 2018.

In the video, Glover depicted himself as the racially biased American White culture that oppresses and occasionally kills people in the black community.

He tells the story of how injustice against the black community is turned a blind upon and how culprits get away scot-free, protected by the establishments. 

9. “Ice Cream” by Granville Automatic  

In this track, Granville Automatic tells the story of Sarah Estell, a free black woman from the 18th century who owned an ice cream shop before the Civil War. 

The song reflects her empowerment, as many high-class white oppressors would hire her for ice cream at their parties.

The song also addresses her despair as she owned her own African-American husband so that he wasn’t sold away.

10. “The Times They Are A-Changin” by Bob Dylan 

The song speaks of how every day and every event brings a change in our lives.

He also called for the attention of politicians to recognize the changes people desired instead of ignoring them.

Though the singer himself left the song open to interpretation, people quickly took it up as a protest song to encourage activists in their efforts.

11. “No Longer Slaves” by Bethel Music 

Among many Christian slavery songs, slavery to fear is addressed as how God helps people overcome that fear.

The song talks about how Moses was afraid of no higher power except God, which is why God parted the sea to save him and his people from the slavery of the Pharoah.

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12. “Free the Slave” by KALEO

“Free the Slave” is about the killing and enslavement of African-American people and how the establishments are racially biased against them.

The song tells the story of an innocent man being hanged just because they need someone to blame. 

13. “No Longer Slaves” by Zach Williams 

Williams recorded this cover of Bethel Music while he was in jail with other inmates to motivate them to be better. 

Through the song, he wanted to send the message that the inmates shouldn’t let the fear and guilt of their sins hold them back from hoping for a better future because God is forgiving.

14. “Slave to the Wage” by Placebo 

This song speaks of the modern slavery of people to their jobs that they don’t enjoy.

It motivates people not to overwork themselves and work towards dreams they actually care about, even if that means breaking societal norms.

The lyrics also say that the wage multiplies tenfold when your work is something you love.

15. “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy

“Fight The Power” ranked number one in the US Hot Rap Singles (Billboard) and number two in  Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.

It accurately presents the racial discrimination black people face on the streets and how people in power do nothing about it.

16. “Strange Fruit” by Nina Simone 

Abel Meeropol wrote the song and it was recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939.

Simone’s version was recorded to protest the lynchings of black Americans in the Southern United States at the end of the 19th century.

She depicted the black American victims as fruits of a tree.

The song has said to be the beginning of the Civil Rights movement.

17. “At the Purchaser’s Option Song” by Rhiannon Giddens

Giddens was inspired to write this song after reading an advertisement from the 1830s for a young enslaved Black person. 

She sings from the perspective of that 22-year-old slave of her fears for herself and her child, who will be sold away from her by the new owner.

The woman sings how though she is being sold, her soul is something that will always remain her own. 

18. “Rise Up” by Andra Day 

Andra day’s song portrays rising and releasing yourself from being a slave to your emotions and despair.

The singer spoke about how she wrote this song to help people get back on their feet and to motivate American activists that all their efforts will one day be worth it.

The song encourages people not to give up and not lose hope for a better future.

19. “Eyes On The Prize” by Mavis Staples

“Eyes on the Prize” by Mavis Staples has often been sung for social justice movements for many years.

The song incites hope in people, so they don’t despair and continue their fight against adversity.

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Staples’ powerful voice while singing the song reflects that she was singing from her heart.

20. “We Shall Overcome” by Mahalia Jackson

One of Mahalia Jackson’s famous American slavery songs, “We Shall Overcome”, was sung by her in many meetings during the Civil Rights movement.

It was her way of boosting the morale of all African American activists and their supporters fighting against oppression and racism. 

21. “New Slaves” by Kanye West

Kanye’s slavery rap song explains how though some people claim that the era of segregation against the black community is over, it isn’t true.

He sings about how Black people work hard all their lives, and even after they get power and money, they are still stereotyped because of racial bias.

22. “Ship Ahoy” by The O’Jays  

O’Jays’ Ship Ahoy is a dark song that refers to the voyage through which enslaved Africans were trafficked on slave ships for the Atlantic slave trade.

The song was part of an album of the same name that ranked #1 on Billboard’s “Black Albums” chart. 

23. “Misery Chain” by Chris Cornell feat. Joy Williams

The song was written for the movie “12 Years a Slave” about Solomon Northrup, an African-American freeman who was sold into slavery.

Cornell was inspired to write this song from the true journey of Solomon Northrup, which gave the lesson of compassion, human right and humanity above everything.

24. “Mississippi Goddam” by Nina Simone 

Simone criticizes the government and society for not doing anything for the oppressed African-Americans in this popular protest song.

The song was inspired by the killing of activist Medgar Evers in Mississippi and the killing of 4 black girls by a white supremacist in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.

25. “How Long Must I Be Your Slave” by John Lee Hooker

“How Long Must I Be Your Slave” is one of Hooker’s songs about being taken advantage of.

He talks about how he is a slave to his emotions regarding the woman he is in a toxic relationship with and wants to leave.

He speaks of her as someone who doesn’t care and only laughs at him behind his back. 

26. “Go Down Moses” by Louis Armstrong

The song tells the story of the ancient Jewish liberation from Egyptian rule, in which they were tortured and enslaved by the Pharoah.

The song teaches that God will help the persecuted like he helped Moses by parting the Red Sea.

The song is sung from the perspective of the Israelites as they travel to their new home.

27. “New Wage Slavery” by End It

The song was written as a protest against the ruling class in America that neglected the common people and used them only for their own benefit.

The video depicts the increasing struggle between the common citizens and the ones in power.

28. “Vanity Slaves” by Kendrick Lamar

This is one of Lamar’s rap songs, about slavery to vanity.

Lamar sings how all the other rappers are actually slaves to vanity, whereas he doesn’t desire any of those things. 

Hence, he portrays himself as invincible and the best rapper alive who will continue to prove that fact to the world with his work.

29. “No Longer Slaves” by I Am They

The song is about a person who has broken the chains that enslaved them and is hopeful for a better and bright future.

The song motivates its listeners never to give up and always to believe that they can always change or walk out of a horrible situation that is weighing them down.

30. “Slave Owner” by Young Dolph 

In this song, Young Dolph compares record labels to slave owners who throw a ton of money to have artists dance to their tunes.

However, in the music video, Dolph shows that he’ll never be a slave to these record labels, no matter what they offer in return.

Songs About Slavery – Final Thoughts

The compiled list above has everything from R&B to hip-hop to rap. 

It has songs that will connect with you on an emotional level and songs that will take you through stories of African-American enslavement

These songs are a must-listen if you want to go on an emotional rollercoaster.

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Will Fenton

Introduced to good music at a young age through my father. The first record I remember being played was "Buffalo Soldier" by Bob Marley, I must've been six years old. By the time I was seven, I was taking drum lessons once a week. The challenge but the euphoric feeling of learning a new song was addicting, and I suppose as they say the rest was history. Favorite album of all time? Tattoo You by The Rolling Stones Best gig you've ever been to? Neil Young at Desert Trip in 2016 Media mentions: Evening Standard Daily Mail

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