NARRATION (0: 00 – 0:15) 

Rhiannon Giddens is a popular contempory artist who has written and covered a number of protest songs through her musical career. In her hit album “Freedom Highway”, released in 2017 it included  the song “At the Purchaser’s Option”. The song remains today an anthem for anti slavery and women empowerment 

Music Intro (0:16-0:40)

 I’ve got a babe but shall I keep him

‘Twill come the day when I’ll be weepin’

But how can I love him any less

This little babe upon my breast

Narration (0:41-0:53):  

Rhiannon Giddens “At the Purchasers Options tell the story of a young enslaved women, whose baby is offered at the option of her buyer. During NPR’s Music Tiny Desk Concert, we see how the chorus is a testament to her strength and determination to her not to allow the indigities of slavery to dehumanize her. 

Chorus: (0:54-1:13) 

You can take my body

You can take my bones

You can take my blood

But not my soul 

You can take my body

You can take my bones

You can take my blood

But not my soul

Narration (1:14-1:25):  

Giddens tells us more about the the context behind her song “At the Purchaser’s Option” in a sitdown interview with NPR’s Terry Gross where she recalls a certain ad that she witnessed. 

NPR Interview (1:26- 1:54) 

Giddens: And this ad, you know, really killed me because at the end of it, it says she has with her a 9-month-old baby who was at the purchaser’s option. And I just started thinking about what this young woman – what her life was really like, you know, not having any agency over any part of her life. Like, we take that for granted. Like, I have two children and I’m like, I don’t have to worry about them being sold away from me or taken away, you know? And just how do you make it through that, that kind of life?” 

Narration (1:55-2:29): 

In the  Washington Post article, titled “America’s Cruel History of Seperating Children from their Parents”. We are able to gather an understanding of not only the history of this song but how it is still relevant in today’s world. 

Deneen L. Brown of the  Washington Post claims 

“The Trump administration’s current crackdown on families that cross the border illegally has led to hundreds of children, some as young as 18 months, being separated from their parents. The parents are being sent to federal jails to face criminal prosecution while their children are being placed in shelters operated by the Department of Health and Human Services. Often, the children have no idea where their parents are or when they will see them again.” 


Narration (2:30-2:48)

The backstory to Giddens song “At the Purchaser’s Option” is referring to slavery, but it can also be seen through the lens of immigrations in today’s climate. Through her lyrics and through the instrumental influence like the banjo. We can see how her songs became to be. From the youtube channel, “OtherVoicesLive” Rhiannon Giddens and interviewer Jim Carroll have a wide range discussion specifically on the banjo influence in her music. 

OtherVoicesLive (2:49-3:28)

I found out the true history of the banjo which you know I along with many other Americans sort of had this assumption that the banjo was a white you know invented sort of mountain instrument only and then I found out that it was an actually an african american instrument invented by you know descendants of africans in the carribbean and my mind was blown. So not only was really important starting place for my journey within folk music but it also but it has really kind of directed everything that I’ve done since then just the whole idea of something that was so obvious to me being completely wrong and kind of going okay what else is there that I don’t know you know

Narration (3:29-3:35): During August Vocal Week in 2016, Rhiannon Giddens performed “At the Purchasers Option” for which she played the banjo live 

Kronos | Rhiannon Giddens

At the Purchaser’s Option- Rhiannon Giddens at Augusta Vocal Week 2016 (3:36- 4:13) 

I’ve got a body dark and strong

I was young but not for long

You took me to bed a little girl

Left me in a woman’s world

 Narration (4:14-4:39)

 Freedom Highway is the name of the album that Rhiannon Giddens produced, written, and sang in. With this, there are many central themes that are addressed in, these include racial inequality, courage, and justice. The article called Freedom Highway: Lessons in Courage and Justice from Rhiannon Giddens goes into detail into  how in her music, she likes to address political justice issues but also shine a light for hope in the future. A constant theme amongst protest songs we have listened to in class. 

Quote from Article (4:40-5:49)

According to Susan A Davis, “The theme of Giddens’ album is freedom: yearning for freedom, being denied freedom, having freedom stolen with a last breath. In speaking about the song content of Freedom Highway, Giddens (2017) advises:

Quote on quote “Know thy history. Let it horrify you; let it inspire you. Let it show you how the future can look, for nothing in this world has not come around before. These songs are based on slave narratives from the 1800s, African American experiences of the last century, and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and headlines from streets of Ferguson and Baltimore today. Voices demanding to be heard, to impart the hard-earned wisdom of a tangled, difficult, complicated history; we just try to open the door and let them through” 

CBS Interview (5:50-5:59) In an interview CBS Mornings, Giddens talks about the music industry and how it plays a part in her purpose to fulfill greater heights beyond the awards and accolades. 

CBS Interview Clip (6:00-6:41)

 Narration (6:42-6:48): In an interview with Amanpour and Company, Rhiannon Giddens tells us more about African American Contribution in her music” 

Narration (6:48-7:08): The true role of African Americans in the creation of some of these things like you know country music, old time music, bluegrass. You know things that are at the heart of a lot of what really American and so i’ve been doing that for some years and this record you know there is no other there it was an opportunity to place that in a global context”  

Narration (7:09- 7:39): An anthem that goes above and beyond what is expected in todays music industry. Giddens has continued to advocate for change through her own music, including her most recent album called “You’re the One” release this year. Giddens has been nominated and won a number of awards including multiple time Grammy Winner and a Pulitzer Prize Winner, which is given too artists who have achieved the most in any field of entertainment. Here is one last listen to Rhiannon Giddens “At the Purcaser’s Option”, I am Luke Ortolani and I will see you guys next time. 

At the Purchaser’s Option Song (7:40-8:03)

I’ve got a body dark and strong

I was young but not for long

You took me to bed a little girl

Left me in a woman’s world


Fridays Live: Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi

1. (Rhiannon Giddens – At the Purchasers Option)
2. (Rhiannon Giddens: NPR Tiny Desk Concert)
3.…gs-slave-narratives (Rhiannon Giddens sings slave narratives)…heir-parents/ (America’s 4. Cruel History of Separating Children from their Parents) (OtherVoicesLive, Rhiannon Giddens tells the revelatory story of the banjo in America) (At the Purchaser’s Option- Rhiannon Giddens at Augusta Vocal Week 2016)
6.…46221127972 (Freedom Highway – Lessons in Courage and
7. (CBS Mornings, Rhiannon Giddens on her first album of the original songs and winning Pulitzer Prize Publications)
8. (Amanpour & Company, Rhiannon Giddens on African American Contributions to Music)