“Steal Away” (“Steal Away To Jesus”) is an American Negro spiritual. The song is well-known by variations of the chorus:
Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus!
Steal away, steal away home, I hain’t got long to stay here.
Many say that songs like Steal Away to Jesus, and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Wade in the Water and the Gospel Train are secret codes not only to have faith in God, but were hidden messages for slaves to run away (that is, “steal away”) on their own, or (“steal away”) with the Underground Railroad. Another metaphor is “Follow the drinkin’ gourd.” This referred to following the big dipper, which points north.
“Steal Away” was composed by Wallace Willis, Choctaw freedman in the old Indian Territory, sometime before 1862.
Alexander Reid, a minister at a Choctaw boarding school, heard Willis singing the songs and transcribed the words and melodies. He sent the music to the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. The Jubilee Singers then popularized the songs during a tour of the United States and Europe.
“Steal Away” is a standard Gospel song, and is found in the hymnals of many Protestant denominations. It has been recorded many times by many artists.
An arrangement of this song is part of Michael Tippett’s oratorio A Child of Our Time. [preceding is from the Wikipedia.]