Get on Board: About the Song

Get on Board
The Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1882

Song History

This African-American spiritual was first published in 1872 as one of the songs of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Although it is usually cited as traditional, several sources credit a Baptist minister from New Hampshire, John Chamberlain, with writing it. Captain Asa W. Bartlett, historian for the New Hampshire Twelfth Regiment, reported Chamberlain as singing the song on April 26, 1863, during Sunday services for the regiment.

In the 1950s and 1960s, participants in the Civil Rights Movement often sang the song with revised lyrics.


Get on board, little children
Get on board
Get on board, little children
There’s room for many a-more

The gospel train’s a-coming
I hear it just at hand
I hear the wheels a-rumbling
And rolling through the land

I hear that train a-coming
She’s coming round the curve
She’s loosened all her steam and brakes
Straining every nerve

The fare is cheap and all can go
The rich and poor are there
No second class aboard this train
No difference in the fare

Civil Rights Version

Get on board, children, children
Get on board, children, children
Get on board, children, children
Let’s fight for human rights

I hear the mob a-howlin’
They’re comin’ round the square
Gonna catch those freedom fighters
But we’re gonna meet them there

As fighters we go hungry
Sometimes no sleep or eat
But when you fight for freedom
In the end, you’ll be free

As fighters we are aware of the fact
That we may go to jail
But when you fight for freedom
The Lord will go your bail

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