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At the heart of English folk
Resource Bank

Black Sailors and Sea Shanties - new learning resource for Black History Month

As part of English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) mission to celebrate diversity and promote equality we are happy to announce that we have produced our first learning resource in celebration of Black History Month. EFDSS is here to champion the English folk arts – music, song, dance and related art forms and traditions – as part of the rich and diverse cultural landscape of the UK. We are keen to explore links between English folk traditions and those from further a field.

Black Sailors and Sea Shanties – three songs for use in the classroom is a resource developed over the last 12 months to introduce learners to sea shanties, and to highlight the influence of black sailors on shanties.

The resource comprises freely downloadable teachers’ notes and audio files accessible via our award-winning Resource Bank. It is designed to support learning in the Key Stage 3 curriculum (for young people aged 11 – 14 years) and is based around three sea shanties associated with black sailors.

The songs are known to have been sung and collected from locations as diverse as the Caribbean, Guyana in South America, Georgia in the southern United States, as well as Portsmouth and Somerset in England. Background notes provide brief information on black sailors and shanties and open up discussion about possible meanings and interpretations of the songs. 

The songs are arranged for unison singing: one with guitar chords and the other two with additional, three-part harmony. The resource also gives musical and other classroom activities to extend learning and explore the songs; these include composing shanties, drama games and body percussion exercises. There are downloadable vocal and instrumental sound files to accompany this resource pack.

The resource features arrangements and recordings from artists Adriano Adewale and Hazel Askew and was compiled by Carla Willis-Brown (EFDSS Education Manager, Community Programmes) with Natalie Bevan (Librarian, Vaughan Williams Memorial Library).

Explore the resource here:

Black Sailors and Sea Shanties

Find out more about Black History Month


National Youth Folk Ensemble

National Youth Folk Ensemble


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