A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Hymns for Dedham


Plans are underway for a "Rural Fair" to be held on 4 July 1846 in the town of Dedham, just outside Boston. Much work needs to be done for this event being organized by the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. There are even special hymns for the occasion, with appropriate new words set to the tunes of old songs.


Selection from the Massachusetts Historical Society: Hymns, for the Rural Anti-Slavery Celebration, at Dedham, July 4, 1846.

Questions to Consider


  1. Describe in your own words what the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society's "RURAL FAIR" is supposed to be.
  2. State the core idea of the verses in the hymn "SPIRIT OF FREEDOM, WAKE!" in one sentence.


  1. What is the mission of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, and why does this organization hold a fair on 4 July?
  2. According to the song, what has happened to the "spirit of freedom," and how did this happen?


  1. Who are Maria Weston Chapman and Eliza Lee Follen, and why do they write this circular (or letter) in May 1846?
  2. Why is singing part of an antislavery celebration, and why is this song set to the familiar tune of "America"?


  1. Who are the "Dear Friends," and what are they being asked to do?
  2. If you were singing this song at the antislavery celebration in 1846, what thoughts and emotions might you be experiencing, and why?


  1. How does this circular (from the Library of Congress collections) help you to understand the background of the hymn (from the Massachusetts Historical Society collections)?
  2. How does this hymn help you to understand the messages that the writers of the circular are trying to convey in the letter and at the antislavery fair?