Negro Spirituals

Negro Spirituals

From “Wade in the Water” to “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”, Negro Spirituals are still recognizable songs till this day.

Negro Spirituals are centered around the pain and hardships African Americans were experiencing at the time. Being forced to adopt Christianity, African Americans took traditional hymns introduced to them and put a spin on them. Negro Spirituals are one of the earliest forms of religious music created by African Americans. 

Ella Jenkins

Ella Jenkins is an African American Folk artist an singer from Saint Louis, Missouri.

Key Elements

Call and Response

Call and Response is a style that is described as the first phrase  calling out and then the second phrase is in response to the first. This style is very recognizable in negro spirituals and in the music we hear today.

Ring Shout

Ring Shout is a type of song in dancing, in which people will be in a circle playing various instruments, and singing. 

Prominent Artists

Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson was a very influential musician and activist throughout his life. Highly educated, studying at Rutgers University, and Columbia University, he used his platform to speak out against fascism. Robson is widely recognized as a bass baritone, a type of classical male singing voice in the lower ranges. Between 1925 and 1961, Robeson release close to 276 songs, beginning in the negro spiritual genre. 

Robert Nathaniel Dett

Robert Nathaniel Dett was an Canadian-American black composer and musician. Dett was also an organist, pianist, choral director, and music professor. in his lifetime, he was one of the most recognized for his usage of African American folk music and Negro spiritual as the basis for his music.


Negro spirituals are the foundation on which we build today’s gospel music.  Being one of the first recorded spiritual music African American created, music sets the tone for the start of future spiritual music. This is personally one of my favorites because it displays in great detail what life was like for the enslaved masses and showed what they did to get through it. My favorite thing about the spirituals is that African Americans took a religion that was practically forced onto the and made it into their own. It almost shows how we are so resilient and how we are able to take almost anything and put our own spin on it. Too see our ancestors channel their pain and sorrows into an art form is a really interesting thing. It makes me more grateful and appreciative that they were able to get through those tough times. 

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