Former equalities chief says banning Swing Low, Sweet Chariot like ‘cancelling black people’s own culture’

Trevor Phillips, former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission

Trevor Phillips is against any ban and says people need to “take a breath before you eliminate black lives from history”

BANNING Swing Low, Sweet Chariot from being sung by rugby fans would be like “black people’s own culture being cancelled,”, the  former head of the Commission for Racial Equality has said.

However, Trevor Phillips, the current chair of Index on Censorship, said on Twitter the song had been written by a freed slave.

“So ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,’ which celebrated Underground Railway, written after the Civil War by a freed slave, and then made popular by the African American Fisk Jubilee Singers, sung at many black funerals and civil rights demonstrations, now to be banned,” he said.

It has been sung by fans since the late 1980s, but it dates back to its credited author, Wallace Willis, who was a freed Oklahoma slave.

It became a popular spiritual song in the early 20th century and was popularised again among folk musicians during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has agreed that the song should not be banned, insisting that “many people don’t even know the words.”

“It should be celebrated in its rightful context.”


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Written by

Mark T Connor

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