From Cotton Fields to Concert Halls by Peyton Bolling

Negro Spirituals are a form of religious folksongs that are associated with the enslavement of thousands of African people during the 17th century . They were created by Africans that were captured, taken to the United States, and sold into slavery. Africans were not granted their freedom nor their own religious beliefs during this era. Instead, they were forced in to the ways of Christianity by their Slave masters. Due to this, Negro Spirituals are one of the most significant forms of folksongs. Because all slaves did not speak the same language, Negro Spirituals had a double meaning. Other forms of music were sung as a means to communicate to one another without the slave masters understanding what they were saying to each other. Negro Spirituals were also a way for slaves to worship the Lord and symbolize freedom. Over the years, Negro Spirituals have become what we now know as gospel music, which is a modern form of African American Spirituals sung in the choir and church settings. Gospel is sung for religious pleasures, ceremonial pleasures, etc. Additionally, Negro Spirituals stem from the “ring shout” which is sung by slaves using chants, hand-claps and dancing. Spirituals are commonly sung in a call and response form, where a leader sings the first line, and a chorus of singers repeat in unison. One of the many noteworthy individuals for negro spirituals was Paul Roberson. He was the first person to have a concert based solely on Negro Spirituals. 

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