Hear dem Bells

PhotographerMorris Burke Parkinson

CountryUnited States

MediumPhotogravure: Text

JournalThe Photographic Times 1890

AtelierN.Y. Photogravure Company (New York City)


View Additional Information & Tags

African-Americans, Allegorical, Genre: Children, Genre: Men, Portrait: group, Religion: Christianity


Image Dimensions: 17.0 x 13.6 cm
Support Dimensions: 27.5 x 20.4 cm (trimmed)

The title to this work is likely a reference to the negro spiritual, or jubilee song Hear dem Bells written in 1880 by D.S. McCosh.  The lyrics are as follows (copyright, 1880, by The Chicago Music Co.) :


We goes to church in de early morn.
When de birds am a singin’ on de trees;
Sometimes dese clo’es am werry much worn,
But we wears dem out at the knees.
At night when de moon am a shinin’ bright.
And de clouds hab passed away,
Dem bells keep a ringin’ for de gospel fight
Dat will last till de judgment day.


Hear dem bells! don’t you hear dem bells?
Dey’s a ringin’ out de glory ob de lamb;
Hear dem bells! don’t you hear dem bells?
Dey’s a ringin’ out de glory ob de lamb.

De church am old and de benches worn,
De bible am a gittin’ hard to read;
But de spirit am dere, as sure as you’re born.
Which is all de comfort we need.
We sing and shout wid all our might
To keep away de cold;
Dem bells keep a ringin’ out de gospel light
Till de story ob de lamb is told. - Chorus.


All day we work in de cotton and de corn
Wid feet and hands so sore,
A prayin’ for Gabriel to blow his horn,
So we don’t hab to work any more.
I hear dem chariots comin’ dis way,
And I know dey’s comin’ for me,
So ring dem bells till judgment day,
And de land dat I’se gwine for to see.-Chorus.


A variant was also taken and copyrighted by Parkinson in 1890 with the title:


What Was Slavery Uncle Tom?

which featured the same African-American gentleman and female child model on right. This was issued as a broadside poster (25 x 19”) and is held in the Special Collections division at the University of Virginia Library.  


This example was likely an alternate plate (as evidenced by the “B” designation printed in the upper left corner) included in an unknown, 1890 issue of The Photographic Times.


print details: lower left corner: Photographed and Copyright 1890. by M.B. Parkinson

upper left corner: Photographic Times (B)

Hear dem Bells