‘Songs of Freedom’: Measha Brueggergosman Explores Slavery, Music and Family History in VisionTV Doc
Measha Brueggergosman explores her own familial history, as well as the wider context of songs that came to North America from Africa via the slave trade and Underground Railroad, in 'Songs of Freedom'. Photo: Courtesy VisionTV
With the four-part documentary series Songs of Freedom enjoying an encore airing Fridays (Feb. 3 – 24) on VisionTV (a ZoomerMedia property), we revisit our look at the award-winning series that features Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman.
Celebrated soprano Measha Brueggergosman is grateful to be Canadian, and she doesn’t take it for granted.
“Relative to the ‘norm’ experienced by millions worldwide, for the majority of Canadians, being born here is tantamount to winning the lottery,” the 42-year-old Fredericton native wrote in a story published in Zoomer magazine in 2017. “I have done nothing to deserve this. Yet, through the blessing and grace of positioning, at least five generations of my family (so far) have conceived of, constructed and lived out lives of their own choosing.”
She added that “It is a humbling truth that, with a flap of the butterfly wings, I could have easily been born into poverty, a war zone, a contaminated earth” — a sentiment that rings all the more poignant when the award-winning singer notes that she’s the “fifth-generation descendant of emancipated slaves.”
And it’s that familial history, which begins in Cameroon, that she explores, as well as the wider context of songs that came to North America from Africa via the slave trade and Underground Railroad — some of which Brueggergosman also performs — in the four-part documentary series Songs of Freedom.
The documentary first aired in 2015 — and won three Canadian Screen Awards — but the themes of striving for racial equality and the fight to be truly free still resonate today amid the ongoing anti-racism protests occurring around the globe.
In a post on VisionTV.ca in 2017, Brueggergosman explains that her own journey to discover the roots of her Gosman family (her father’s side of the family) began with research. That included finding her family name in the Book of Negroes — the list of black slaves who fought as Black Loyalists with the British during the War of Independence in exchange for emancipation.
“In 1779 John Gosman became a Black Loyalist when he ran away from his Colonial enslaver, Daniel Lathem of New London, New England, to join the British troops,” she adds. “The Book of Negroes is the first recorded evidence of John Gosman, my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.”
She goes on to say that, “Our ancestors were very courageous to have done what they did. If John Gosman hadn’t risked his life to get his name in that book and make it on the ship that took him and his family to Nova Scotia, I would not be here right now.”
The four-part documentary series Songs of Freedom airs Fridays (Feb. 3 – 24) on VisionTV (a ZoomerMedia property) at 10p.m. EDT on VisionTV. Click here for more information.
- A version of this story was published in 2020.