The Civil War in Missouri

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"The Colored Soldier’s Song"

 Joshua McCarter Simpson, mid- to late-1800s
MHM Archives

Joshua McCarter Simpson was an African American abolitionist and an herbal physician. Born free in Windsor, Ohio, about 1820, he was “bound out,” or forced to work as an indentured servant until he was 21 years old. After being released from his involuntary servitude he attended Oberlin Collegiate Institute, now Oberlin College. Simpson authored several abolitionist songs that were published as a pamphlet entitled Original Anti-Slavery Songs in 1852. Two years later he published another collection as The Emancipation Car, believed to be the only known published collection of anti-slavery songs written by one person. His lyrics were used in protests, rallies, and celebrations, and were likely sung on the Underground Railroad, of which Simpson is thought to have been a conductor. A second edition of The Emancipation Car was published after the war and included ten additional songs. Simpson’s wartime and postwar songs included works that called for African American soldiers to join the fight, and celebrated African American emancipation and suffrage.