"Go Tell It on the Mountain" is an African-American spiritual song, compiled by John Wesley Work Jr., dating back to at least 1865, that has been sung and recorded by many gospel and secular performers. It is considered a Christmas carol as its original lyrics celebrate the Nativity of Jesus:
Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere;
go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.
In 1963, the musical team Peter, Paul and Mary, along with their musical director Milt Okun, adapted and rewrote "Go Tell It on the Mountain" as "Tell It on the Mountain", their lyrics referring specifically to: Exodus and using the phrase "Let my people go", but referring implicitly to the civil rights struggle of the early 1960s. This version became a moderately successful single for them (US No. 33 pop, 1964).
According to religious studies professor and civil rights historian Charles Marsh, it was African-American civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer who combined this song with the spiritual "Go Down Moses", taking the last line of the chorus, "let my people go" and substituting it in the chorus of "Go Tell It on the Mountain". Marsh does not document this claim, but notes that Hamer was highly active in civil rights work beginning in the 1950s, and that the use of the Exodus story and the singing of spirituals played a central role in her activities.
A version was also recorded by the Wailers with Peter Tosh on lead vocal. This version contains no reference to the birth of Christ and the line is replaced by “Set my people free”. The song appears on “The Best of The Wailers” album (recorded 1970 and released in 1971).