The History of the Negro Spiritual

The Negro Spiritual was born out of African American’s history of oral traditions to help reinstate Christian values and voice the privations of slavery. The first ones could be most closely related to hymns but style of spirituals are highly influenced by the surroundings in which they are sung, meaning their styles were continuously changing. They were sung while working in the fields, homes or at religious services like church or plantation houses.

Double Entendres: What Are They?

Spirituals’ did not only serve as music for slaves and as invisible church services, most of them were full of double entendres or second, coded meanings only accessible to slaves. Double entendres were mostly related to escaping plantations or plans of such and the allegorical duality of most hymns were intended to illicit urgency in slaves and instill in them, the will and desire to escape. Spirituals mentioning wheels, running, chariots, etc. were the most common and indicative of escape.

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Examples of Double Entendres in Slave Songs

Popular Spirituals


Wade in The Water
Steal Away