Throughout the book, songs and church hymns often accompany heightened emotional scenes. In particular, hymns and songs are often sung by or for individuals whose situations are especially grim. Song gives comfort and a voice to individuals who are systemically denied agency, hope, or self-expression. In particular, song represents the suffering, resilience, and hope of oppressed individuals. This connects to the central role of music in historically African-American churches, and also it alludes to the role of spirituals during slavery.
Songs/ Hymns Quotes in Just Mercy
Henry sang slowly and with great sincerity and conviction […]
Lord lift me up, and let me stand
By faith on Heaven’s tableland
A higher plane, that I have found
Lord, plant my feet on Higher Ground.
I sat down, completely stunned. Henry’s voice was filled with desire. I experienced his song as a precious gift.
It was sad like few other hymns I’d heard. I don’t know why exactly, but I started to hum it as I saw more uniformed officers entering the vestibule outside the visitation room. It seemed like something that might help […] After a few minutes, the family joined me. I went over to Herbert’s wife as she held him tightly, sobbing softly. I whispered to her, “We have to let him go.” Herbert saw the officers lining up outside, and he pulled away from her slowly and told me to take her out of the room.
“I’ve been singing sad songs my whole life. Had to. When you catch stones, even happy songs can make you sad.” She paused and grew silent. I heard her chuckle before she continued. “But you keep singing. Your songs will make you strong. They might even make you happy.”