Vision Logo Circle
Vision Logo Circle

Go Tell It On the Mountain

by | Wed, Dec 15 2021

Text size: A- A+
Image via Shutterstock

Imagine being an illiterate slave in the nineteenth century. Working hard in the fields, at the mercy of your masters, but yet full of praise for God in song.

That is how the slaves in America passed down stories — singing them in songs as they worked and celebrated. These songs are called spirituals and ‘Go Tell It On the Mountain’ is one such song. It is said to have been birthed in 1865 or earlier.

When the song was finally sung in the public by the Fisk University’s Jubilee Singers though, it came with some resistance.

John Wesley Work, Jr. had a passion to study and preserve Negro spirituals.  He put lyrics to ‘Go Tell It On the Mountain’ and set it to the tune of the old spiritual ‘When I was a Seeker’. John was then the faculty member of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee U.S.A., a university for students ranging from the age of seven to seventy, whose background was in slavery and poverty.

Going Public

In 1871, Fisk University’s Jubilee Singers went on tour to try to raise funds for their debt-ridden school. The ten-member group, whose name was inspired by Leviticus 25 (the day of Jubilee) took with them the entire university’s treasury to fund the tour.

The students were not very enthusiastic in singing the songs of their ancestors as slave songs have never been sung in public. They represented slavery and the dark past — things to be forgotten. But with persuasion they relented. The tour was a success.

Today the school counts many prominent activists as its alumni. Grammy Award-winning Gospel singer Mandisa also went through the gates of Fisk University.

And of course, ‘Go Tell It On the Mountain’ is now a beloved Christmas carol joyfully ushering the birth of Jesus.

God used the song not only to transform the dark, ugly past of slavery into something beautiful but also practically uplift the lives of many former slaves. All from the heartfelt worship of humble, illiterate slaves.

‘Go Tell It On the Mountain’ Lyrics

Go tell it on the mountain,
over the hills, and everywhere;
go, tell it on the mountain
that Jesus Christ is born.

While shepherds kept their watching
o’er silent flocks by night,
behold, throughout the heavens
There shone a holy light. [Refrain]

The shepherds feared and trembled
when lo, above the earth,
rang out the angel chorus
that hailed our Saviour’s birth. [Refrain]

Down in a lowly manger
the humble Christ was born,
and God sent us salvation
that blessed Christmas morn.

Reflect & Respond

  • God used the heartfelt worship of slaves who were probably told how unworthy they were to impact thousands. Do you feel unworthy to worship God, or that your worship is minuscule and unworthy? What view of your worship to God do you have now that you know this fact?
  • The slaves were under oppression but found joy in praising God. How does this inspire you to praise?
  • God could transform the dark, ugly past of slavery into something beautiful. How does this encourage you about a past you would rather just forget or a present situation you are going through?
  • Who can you go tell of the Good News to this Christmas?

About the author: Kristine Lee a.k.a. Jin Pyn Lee is an author, writer, aspiring filmmaker, dreamer, motorcycle rider and fulltime Christian. That just means she shares the love of her life Jesus wherever and whenever. In her eulogy, she would simply like to be known as someone God loves. Connect with Kristine on

Phil Wickham’s Tour Of Salvations

‘This is too much goodness and too much beauty, I’ve been a wreck this whole tour.”

Franklin Graham Preaches in London

“Hundreds came forward to turn from sin and put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ.”

Amir Tsarfati Visits Australia to Speak About ‘What’s Next in Bible Prophecy?’

While Israel’s national anthem is called ‘The Hope’, Hatikvah in Hebrew, many Israelis are losing hope as Israel plunges into mass formation psychosis, according to Amir Tsarfati, Founder and President of Behold Israel.

Evangelist Will Graham’s Gold Coast Visit

“The churches here are on fire for the Lord and passionate about proclaiming Jesus Christ.”

‘Rising Spiritual Tide’ Of Young Christians

“My heart is filled with hope for the future. The global church is not in retreat.”

Nick Vujicic Uses AI To Spread Gospel

Australian evangelist Nick Vujicic is using AI to help spread the Gospel. He’s unveiled a new initiative called Multitood which is a cost-effective video translation software solution to help expand an organisation’s reach.

Nick Vujicic Calls US Church ‘Delusional’

“I don’t pray for revival. I pray for repentance. We need to repent.”

Phil Edwards Announces Launch of Vision Kids Radio

Phil Edwards, Vision Christian Media’s CEO, shares the exciting news of the launch of Vision Kids Radio, a digital audio channel dedicated to children. Vision Kids Radio will stream 24/7 across all Vision platforms bringing the Good News and Gospel-focused music to every child in a fun-filled way to entertain and educate.

Taking The Gospel To Africa

“It was joy in the streets. It was young people and I was in tears just watching them.”

Dan Warlow – Kids Music Evangelist Features on Vision Kids

Dan Warlow is another of Vision Kids featured artists! Dan’s passion and dedication to spreading God’s message to young hearts has hailed him as one of Australia’s best Christian kids entertainers and evangelists.