The Birth of Negro Spirituals

The Great Awakening in the 18th century sparked a period of religious revival that swept through the American colonies. As more generations of enslaved Africans were born in America, pieces of African religion slowly began to fade away. The introduction of Christianity ultimately birthed negro spirituals as slaves were allowed to openly practice the religion in churches.

During the Great Awakening, white baptist and methodist preachers traveled through the south preaching highly evangelical sermons to poor whites and enslaved Africans. The words of God that were being told to the slaves made them feel human. Being able to feel human, especially in the climate of the south, was transformative feeling that they would continue to seek for years to come. This religion which embodied  physical identification made practicing it more meaningful to slaves. It was more about what was felt rather than what was heard.

The Significance of the Invisible Church

As slaves opened the door to Christianity, they took Jesus as their own, allowing Jesus to take them. In the South, slaves began to worship in secret often in defiance of the laws that prohibited them from assembly without white supervision. The clandestine gatherings, which are known as Invisible Churches, typically took place in places designated for purposes other than worship such as the ravine, gully, field or the living quarters. In secrecy, slaves were able to praise and worship through songs and dances which profoundly differed how white southerners worshipped in their churches. 

 Invisible Church allowed for slave to freely worship and express themselves through religious songs and dances. They did not assume the Christianity of the oppressors but the Christianity that they created. They reevaluated and reconfigured Christianity to fit their own needs. The establishment of Invisible Churches allowed for them to openly practice it without ridicule or punishment from white slave owners. 

Modern Day Black Churches

Invisible churches significantly mirror modern churches where African-Americans predominately attend. Similar styles of church manner, dances, and songs can be traced back to the foundations of invisible churches and negro spirituals.

Examples of Common Negro Spiritual Songs

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