Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hold On (Keep Your Eyes On The Prize) civil rights song

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides lyrics and a video of the civil rights song "Hold On (Keep Your Eyes On The Prize)". This post also provides information about the Spiritual "Hold On" which was slightly adapted and sung during the American civil rights movement of the 1960s.

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LYRICS: HOLD ON [Civil Rights versions)
Paul and Silas bound in jail
with no money to forgo their bail
Keep your eye on the prize
and hold on, hold on

Hold on
Hold on
Keep your eye on the prize
And hold on, hold on.

If religion was a thing that money could buy

The rich would live and the poor would die
Keep your eye on the prize
And hold on, hold on.


One and one that makes two
Tell you what I'm-ma gonna do
Keep my eye on the prize
And hold on, hold on.


Know the one thing we did wrong
Stayed in the wilderness far too long
Know the first thing we did right
Was the day we started to fight
Keep your eye on the prize hold on, hold on

The African American civil rights song "Hold On" is a slight adaptation of the African American Spiritual "Keep Your Hand On The Plow"), also known as "Hold On". Instead of "Keep your eye on the prize", the Spiritual's lyrics are "Keep your hand on the plow". "Keep your hand on the plow" and "keep your eye on the prize" both mean to remain steadfast in your determination. The words of that Spiritual referred to those who were determined to live a Christian life. When almost the same words were sung in the civil rights protest movement, they referred to being resolved to continue that protest inspite of the possibility or the probability of very serious consequences.

As is true of other civil rights songs, all the words to this song aren't fixed.

Thanks to Mama Kemba for sending in the third verse to this song to my website on 2/26/2008. Thanks, also, to bill allen for sending a message on 4/24/2009 to that website which noted that "Keep Your Eye On The Prize" is an urban version of the rural (farm or plantation) song "Hold On". bill allen also included these verses in his message:
1. When you plow, don't lose your track, Can't plow straight and keep a-lookin' back.
Keep your hand on that plow, hold on (Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.)

2. Wanna getta heav'n?, I'll tell you how, Keep your hand right on that plow. (Keep your eyes...)

3. When I thought I was lost, Dungeon shook and the chains fell off. (Keep your eyes...)

4. Got my hands on the gospel plow, Wouldn't take nothin' for my journey now. (Keep your eyes...)

5. The only chain we can stand, Is the chain of hand in hand (Keep your eyes...)

Visit this Mudcat Discussion Forum thread about the song "Keep your eyes on the prize":


Mahalia Jackson - Keep Your Hand on the Plow

BrendudeUploaded on Jan 6, 2010

Odetta at Carnegie Hall - Hold on (gospel plow)

Uploaded by wecms on Feb 27, 2012

Hold on (the gospel plow) was recorded in Odetta live concert at Carnegie Hall on April 8, 1960 featured support from Bill Lee on string bass. ( Lee -- father of Spike Lee)

Thanks for visiting this Civil Rights Songs blog.

Viewer comments are welcome.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your work in bringing forth this information over the years. Thanks also to Momma Kemba, from my home in Chicago, and to Bill Allen for their contributions as well. Doing final preparations for songs and chants that I'll be helping to lead today for the Dr. King Memorial commemorative march that we'll be doing shortly in Marquette Park, where Dr. King was struck with a rock, saying that Chicago had been his most hostile experience at that point, moreso than anything he had experienced in the south. That march in 1966 had special meaning for me as, at the age of 14, I was in it. Yesterday others who also had marched that day with Dr. King were invited to participate in the memorial ceremony unveiling the monument that now stands in Marquette Park, beautifully structured of stone and rock, a notable connection to the incident where Dr. King was struck. Today we prepare for the commemorative march, kicking off at 9am. A shorter distance this time around, and hopefully, with less hostility. In fact, many in the community of Marquette Park spearheaded these events, inspired by Brother Rami Nashashibi of IMAN (Inner-City Muslim Action Nertwork), blending Muslims, Jews, Protestants, Catholics, and people from across many cultures and nationalities. It was a wonderful sight to behold that, with blessings, will continue to manifest out into the world where we continue to encounter injustices on a daily basis. But we know that we must keep hope alive and "Keep Our Eyes on the Prize." We'll be in Philly in November of 2016 as the Nat'l Assoc of Black Storytellers. Hope to see you there. Peace and blessings. Mama Edie, Nat'l Memb Chair, Nat'l Assoc of Black Storytellers, Inc.


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