“Keeping Score” is a poignant and harrowing narrative that delves into the brutal and dehumanizing experiences of slavery in the 19th century. The lyrics tell the story of a young individual, born into slavery in 1854, who endures the horrors of abuse, rape, and separation from their mother.
The narrator’s description of being chased by four men on stallions, cornered in a dark barn with their mother, and subjected to physical and sexual violence vividly portrays the cruelty and inhumanity of slavery. The mention of a black snake whip adds a chilling detail, emphasizing the brutality inflicted upon them.
The song touches on themes of escape and resilience, highlighting the protagonist’s attempts to run and seek freedom. However, the harsh reality of being caught, sold, and enduring further abuse is devastating. The use of the term “whore” reflects the objectification and dehumanization suffered by the narrator at the hands of their captors.
As the lyrics progress, the timeline spans from 1854 to 1855, capturing the short and tragic life of the narrator. The reference to being the “littlest whore” underlines the vulnerability and helplessness of a child forced into a life of unimaginable suffering.
The closing lines reveal the narrator’s ultimate fate, succumbing to the physical and emotional toll of slavery. The arrival of their mother, searching for freedom, serves as a poignant reminder of the separation and loss endured by enslaved families. The abolition of human slavery in 1855 concludes the narrative, marking the end of a dark era but not without acknowledging the deep scars left on those who lived through it.
“Keeping Score” is a powerful and gut-wrenching portrayal of the brutality of slavery, exposing the physical and emotional trauma endured by the narrator and countless others during this dark period in history.