Harriet Tubman's Ballad, part 1
06. Harriet Tubman’s Ballad, part 1
(Woody Guthrie/TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc., BMI)
07. Harriet Tubman’s Ballad, part 2
(Woody Guthrie/TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc., BMI)

Tracks 6 and 7 – The Ballad of Harriet Tubman, Part 1 (MASTER 905)
and Part 2 (MASTER 904)
In March, 1945, Guthrie facing induction into the army (he was divorced from his first wife,Mary, and yet to wed his second, Marjorie Mazia), he rushed into the remodeled Asch studio, to record what he and Moe Asch hoped would be a continuing series of recordings. Guthrie recorded five ballads that day, including “The Ludlow Massacre” (Track 4 on this disc), and the long ballad of “Harriet Tubman.” (“Tubman,” sung to the tune of “Kansas Boys,” was so long it spread over two masters.)

Curiously enough, Asch never got around to putting the Tubman ballad on a commercial release. In one sense it took the pioneering scholar of American protest songs, John Greenway to recognize Guthrie’s powerful narrative of the legendary woman who guided as many as 300 escaped slaves to freedom over the Underground Railway.

Greenway wrote of Guthrie that “so unerringly does he strike at the heart of the matter in composing his song-stories, that annotations are an impertinence.” (American Folksongs of Protest [Philadelphia, 1953], p. 90.)