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Sketches of Canada for February 10th!

Canadian History for Kids: Peg Leg Joe

Canadian History for Kids exclusive looks at the heroic deeds of a man name Peg Leg Joe, who was said to be a conductor on the Underground Railroad as apart of our Black History Month series.

Peg Leg Joe

Peg Leg Joe was an abolitionist who led the slaves to freedom. He did so by way of the Underground Railroad.

Peg Leg Joe was said to be a carpenter and a sailor who led slaves through the Underground Railroad to freedom. As his name suggests he had a prosthesis. As a conductor of the Underground Railroad he is also credited for authoring the song “Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd”.

His story was the subject of a conversation with an elderly man and his grandson in 1912 who remembered a one-legged sailor who “would go through the country north of Mobile and teach this song to young slaves and show them a mark of his natural left foot and the round spot made by the peg-leg.”

The song “Follow the drinking gourd” contains an amazing coded map and escape route in which the “Drinking Gourd” is nothing more than a reference to the Big Dipper star formation, which points to Polaris, the Pole Star, and thus to the North, which was the direction of free states and of Canada.
The similarity between the hollowed out gourd used by slaves and other rural Americans as a water dipper and the star formation cannot be ignored. The ‘Drinking Gourd’ was much more easily familiar by the slaves than the Big Dipper.

When the Sun comes back
And the first quail calls
Follow the Drinking Gourd,
For the old man is a-waiting for to carry you to freedom
If you follow the Drinking Gourd
The riverbank makes a very good road.
The dead trees will show you the way.
Left foot, peg foot, travelling on,
Follow the Drinking Gourd.
The river ends between two hills
Follow the Drinking Gourd.
There’s another river on the other side
Follow the Drinking Gourd.
When the great big river meets the little river
Follow the Drinking Gourd.
For the old man is a-waiting for to carry to freedom
If you follow the Drinking Gourd.

Keep following Canadian History for Kids, as we continue to bring you articles for our Black History Month special.

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