London: England’s Rugby Football Union is undertaking a review into the “historical context” of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, a favourite song among England supporters which has roots in American slavery.
The song is routinely seen and heard at Twickenham, with lyrics reproduced on walls at the stadium and sung from the stands, and has been a rugby union anthem for at least three decades.
Its full history goes back much further, though, dating back to its credited author Wallace Willis – a freed slave from 19th-century Oklahoma.
It became a popular spiritual in the early 20th century and was popularised again among folk musicians during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Its current guise as a sporting anthem, anecdotally linked to Martin ‘Chariots’ Offiah, is one that has come under the microscope before as a potential act of cultural appropriation and current England star Maro Itoje told the Daily Mail this week he felt the lineage was “complicated”.
With the ongoing focus on the Black Lives Matters protests, the RFU has decided many who enjoy the song do not know its