I love me some Gospel, and this is a great acapella rendition of this old Gospel song. It is part of a larger group of spirituals known as protest spiritual. These were composed by slaves to covertly protest their condition. It was a way for them to verbalize the inequity between the masters and the slaves without being singled out for correction. The repeated chorus, “everybody talkin’ ‘bout Heav’n ain’t goin’ there” sums up the feelings of the slaves.
Marian Anderson often sang this spiritual in her concerts. It was fitting; she was a trail blazer for the Civil Rights movement. Her bio notes that “in 1955 she became the first African American singer to perform as a member of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City… In 1939 Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow her to sing in Constitution Hall because she was black. Eleanor Roosevelt stepped in and offered her a venue for her concert at the Lincoln Memorial.
Anderson had a beautiful contralto voice, and you can listen to her sing a short clip here.