Library of Congress by way of Wikipedia
There was a time in our history when African-American marriages under slavery were not recognized. After their emancipation, this caused much legal wrangling.
Before the Civil War, slave marriages had no legal standing. During the war, blacks serving in the Union Army married under military authority. Henry M. Turner, one of the first black chaplains to serve in the Union Army, officiated at the wedding of Rufus Wright and Elisabeth Turner.
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On June 21, 1864, six months after his marriage, Wright died of abdominal wounds received in action at Petersburg. His widow’s legal status enabled her to receive pension benefits from the federal government. – America’s Reconstruction: People & Politics After the Civil War – Digital History
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Harry T. Burleigh (1866 – 1949), a great singer and expert on spirituals is associated with this song but it was written before he was born. The author is unknown. The Golden Gate Quartet, Paul Robeson, and Louis Armstrong all recorded wonderful versions of it. The story is about the exodus of the Hebrews (people of Israel) from Egypt after 300 years of slavery.
Harry T. Burleigh – Wikipedia