Negro Spirituals by: Nia Webb

Negro Spirituals were songs that were used during the slave period for black people to communicate their struggles and hardships with each other and to have an outlet to voice their feelings. They were also used to uplift each other in times when they felt as if they couldn’t go on any longer. Negro Spirituals were composed by slaves and were stolen, published, and arranged as hit songs. The influence that negro spirituals had on music is untouched. They were normally a vocal genre in the call and response form but evolved into Jubilee Quartets, which added a beat, which then influenced choir spirituals, which added a beat and instruments. A genre of music that has the power to encourage people to prevail when times get tough as well as shows the pain in one’s voice is a genre that will never die and we see that with how Negro Spirituals have adapted and changed based upon the time and struggles of that era. 

Famous Composers

Some famous composers of Negro Spirituals Charles Albert Tindley (1856-1933) whose most famous songs include “Leave it There” and “Stand by Me (1905)”. As well as, Harry Burleigh (1866-1949) whose most famous songs include “Go Down Moses” . More recent Composers include Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972) and Moses Hogan (1957-2003). 

Well Known Negro Spirituals 

“Steal Away”- Mahalia Jackson, Nat King Cole

“Soon Ah Will Be Done”- William L. Dawson

“Lord, How Come Me Here”- Angela Brown

“Elijah Rock”- Moses Hogan

“Wade in the Water”- Ella Jenkins