Boris Johnson Backs Fans Singing ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ Despite Song’s Slavery Roots

Boris Johnson
AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson came out Friday in favor of England rugby fans singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” at a time when the historical context of the song is being reviewed.

Johnson said there should not be “any sort of prohibition on singing that song” and he would “love” to hear the lyrics in full.

The Rugby Football Union has said the song, which has become an anthem for England fans, is “sung by many who have no awareness of its origins or sensitivities.” The RFU said it is reviewing its context amid the Black Lives Matter protests.

The song is believed to have its roots in American slavery, with its credited author being Wallace Willis — a freed slave from Oklahoma.

Johnson, who is a rugby fan, was asked about the song during a visit to a school north of London.

“As for ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,’ nobody as far as I understand it seems to know the words,” Johnson said. “Before we start complaining about ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,’ I’d like to know what the rest of the words are.

“You go, ‘swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home,’ and then it all dies out. How does it go on? That’s my question. I certainly don’t think there should be any sort of prohibition on singing that song.”


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