Negro SPIRITuals!


Negro spirituals were songs that were a reflection of what black people were going through at the time. They started with slavery. Africans were kidnapped from their homes and forced into slavery in a New World. They worked on plantations and in houses. Slaves were allowed to meet for Christian services only. They used this time to sing negro spirituals to talk about their struggles and hardships. Slaves were only allowed to meet Negro spirituals evolved as time went on.


They were typically performed in a call and response form.


Social Implications

To say life on the planation was difficult would be an understatement. It was nearly impossible. Negro spirituals were the only time slaves were free to express how they felt. They talked about the pain they felt, they asked questions, they offered answers and much more. Through songs they could convey how they felt and share it with others.


Negro spirituals first started to be published as sheet music in the 1860s. Negro spirituals could be performed as piano arrangements and they appeared on the concert hall stage.


Negro spirituals influenced jubilee quartets heavily. Jubilee quartets became negro spirituals with a beat added.


Harry Thacker Burleigh(1866-1949)

He arranged a hundred spirituals since 1901. They were adapted for the voices of the artists who had to sing these songs. For example, Paul Robeson used to sing on stage and recorded ‘` Deep River” that he arranged

He published “Jubilee Songs of the United States of America in 1916.

Charles Albert Tindley(1856-1933)

He wrote several songs and he was the first composer to copyright church songs. He did not intend that his songs should be sung in the formal worship services, but rather on informal occasions. He published a collection New Songs of Paradise, in 1916

His best known songs and arrangements are, “A Better Home”, “Leave It There”, “Stand by Me” (1905), “The Storm Is Passing Over”, “What Are They Doing in Heaven Tonight”, “Nothing Between”, “We’ll Understand It Better By and By”.


Conclusion & My Opinion

Negro spirituals were a staple for the black community. They serve as great examples to show the trials and tribulations African Americans were facing at the time. It is amazing that we can listen to a song from 1867 and not just hear but feel what they were going through. Naturally as time goes on, the negro spirituals change and evolve because our circumstances change and evolve. Her are a few examples of modern negro spirituals:

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