Nova Scotia Archives

African Nova Scotians in the Age of Slavery and Abolition

William Riley, with his daughter Rose standing behind him in the doorway, Cherry Brook

William Riley was known as a storyteller and singer of traditional African American spirituals and folk songs. Helen Creighton recorded his songs and published a number of them. She found that some of the spirituals she collected from Riley were known only to him, which suggests that he may have composed those himself. Riley told Creighton that his ancestry was partly Scottish, Spanish and French.


listen to William Riley's 'Auction Block'

Auction Block

No more auction block for me,
No more, no more;
[Riley, "oh poor some was dying then" — Rose, "yes"]
No more auction block for me,
Many thousand gone.

Jesus died on Calvary,
Oh yes, oh yes;
Jesus died to set me free,
Thank him ever more.

No more pint o' salt for me,
No more, no more;
No more pint o' salt for me,
Many thousand gone.

No more hundred lash for me,
No more, no more;
[Riley, "it makes my heart ache just to sing it" — Rose, "don't sing if it's that much effect on you"]
No more auction block for me,
Many thousand gone.

No more pint o' salt for me,
No more, no more;
No more pint o' salt for me,
Many thousand gone.

No more peck o' corn for me,
No more, no more;
No more peck o' corn for me,
Many thousand gone.

Jesus died to set me free,
Oh yes, oh yes;
Jesus bought my liberty,
Thank him ever more.

Helen Creighton Nova Scotia Archives audio cassette 2235

Date: 1948

Photographer: attributed to Helen Creighton

Reference: Helen Creighton  Nova Scotia Archives  accession number 1987-178/14-124 negative number: N-1993

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