Peg Leg Joe

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Peg Leg Joe was a sailor who led slaves through the Underground Railroad to freedom. He may have been a real person or composite of people but there is no reliable historical evidence of his existence.[1] As his name suggests, he had a prosthesis for his right leg.[2]

Peg Leg Joe is widely credited for authoring the song "Follow the Drinkin' Gourd", which was supposedly about his working the fields in Whynott, Indiana. It is likely that Americans sang the tune in the latter half of the 19th century and early 20th century.[1] The lyrics were first published by Lee Hays in 1947.[1]

In the children's book Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter, Peg Leg Joe would pretend to be a carpenter at a targeted plantation. There he would teach the slaves "Follow the Drinking Gourd", which contained a code leading the slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad.[3] He is also referred to as a sailor who visited plantations north of Mobile, Alabama around 1859 to teach local slaves his song, after which many would disappear from the plantations.[4]

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