This Little Light of Mine

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"This Little Light of Mine"
Gospel song by Harry Dixon Loes

"This Little Light of Mine" is a gospel song written for children in the 1920s by Harry Dixon Loes. It was later adapted by Zilphia Horton, amongst many other activists, in connection with the civil rights movement.[1]


Harry Dixon Loes, who studied at the Moody Bible Institute and the American Conservatory of Music, was a musical composer and teacher, who wrote or co-wrote several other gospel songs. The song has since entered the folk tradition, first being collected by John Lomax in 1939. Often thought of as an African-American spiritual, it can be found in The United Methodist Hymnal, #585,[2] adapted by William Farley Smith in 1987.

The song takes its theme from some of Jesus's remarks to his followers. Matthew 5:14-16 of the King James Version gives: "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." The parallel passage in Luke 11:33 of the King James Version gives: "No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light."[3]


The song was sung by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Godmother of Rock 'N' Roll, as early as 1960. The song has also been secularised into "This Little Girl of Mine" as recorded by Ray Charles[4] in 1956 and later The Everly Brothers. It has often been published with a set of hand movements to be used for the instruction of children.

Under the influence of Zilphia Horton, Fannie Lou Hamer, and others, it eventually became a Civil Rights anthem in the 1950s and 1960s, especially the version by Bettie Mae Fikes.[5] The Kingston Trio recorded it on College Concert in 1962, and The Seekers for their second UK album, Hide & Seekers (also known as The Four & Only Seekers) in 1964. Over time it also became a very popular children's song, recorded and performed by the likes of Raffi in the 1980s from his album Rise and Shine, releasing it as a single. It is sometimes included in Christian children's song books.[6]

Odetta and the Boys Choir of Harlem performed the song on the Late Show with David Letterman on September 17, 2001, on the first show after Letterman resumed broadcasting, after having been off the air for several nights following the events of 9/11.[7]

The song featured on Hoyt Axton's 1963 album Thunder 'N Lightnin' named "This Little Light". LZ7 took their version of the song also named "This Little Light" to number 26 in the UK Singles Chart. The song is also sung in several scenes of the 1994 film Corrina, Corrina starring Whoopi Goldberg and Ray Liotta.

The song was mixed with You Can't Be A Beacon by The Masters V (Later: J.D. Sumner and the Stamps in 1988.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Is "This Little Light of Mine" Really a Slave Spiritual Song?". ThoughtCo. Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  2. ^ United Methodist Hymnal, The (1989). This Little Light of Mine #585. Nashville: United Methodist Publishing House. p. 585.
  3. ^ "The New Sounds for Christ in Zimbabwe – This Little Light Of Mine." The Daily Kos, October 6, 2008. Accessed June 7, 2009.
  4. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 3 - The Tribal Drum: The rise of rhythm and blues. [Part 1]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
  5. ^ "Voices of the Civil Rights Movement: Black American Freedom". Smithsonian Folkways. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  6. ^ For example, it is in The Kids Hymnal: 80 Songs and Hymns, Hendrickson Publishers, 2007
  7. ^ "Boys Choir Of Harlem News". Archived from the original on April 11, 2013. Retrieved February 13, 2013.

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