Marys Boy Child, the Song and the Story

Composer Jester Hairston Writes Marys Boy Child

African American Holy Family Clipart
Jester Hairston (1901-2000) was an American composer, songwriter, arranger, choral conductor and actor. The grandson of American slaves, Jester dedicated his life to preserving Negro Spirituals, and the history behind them.

In recent years he is probably best remembered for his role as Rollie Forbes, in the 1980s sitcom AMEN.

Jester Hairston appeared in more than 50 films, including In The Heat of the Night, To Kill a Mocking Bird, and Lilies of the Field for which he composed the song Amen. Hairston wrote music scores for almost 30 films.

In 1956, Hairston wrote Mary's Boy Child. It was recorded that same year by both Harry Belfonte and Mahalia Jackson, and has since been performed by multiple recording artists. The song tells the familiar Christmas story in a melody reminiscent of the music Hairston wanted the world to remember; the Negro Spiritual.

Mary's Boy Child

Long time ago in Bethlehem
So the Holy Bible say
Mary's Boy Child, Jesus Christ
Was born on Christmas Day

Hark now, hear the angels say
New king born today
And man will live forever more,
Because of Christmas Day

While shepherds watched their flocks by night
They saw a bright new shining star
And heard a choir from heaven sing
The music came from afar


Now Joseph and his wife Mary
Came to Bethlehem that night
They found no place to bear her Child
Not a single room was in sight
By and by they found a little nook
In a stable all forlorn
And in a manger cold and dark
Mary's little Boy Child was born

Final Refrain:
Trumpets sound and angels sing
Listen to what they say
That man will live forevermore
Because of Christmas Day

Written by: Connie Ruth Christiansen



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