The Importance of Negro Spirituals on Society

In the late 1800s, slavery was very prevalent in the South and in some parts of the North. Stolen from their own native land, African Americans were forced into the norms of their captors, and in turn had to combine their traditions from their homeland with their experiences in America and created their own newly developed culture.

 

One of the things that emerged from this was Negro Spirituals are songs that were sung by slaves as a coping mechanism to their predicament and is passed down from generation to generation. Some examples of what they would sing about include singing a praise to God or telling a story. 

The lyrics to Wade in the Water were first co-published by the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1901. Interpreters believe this song discusses the escape out of Egypt by the Israelites.

 

Wade in the water
Wade in the water, children
Wade in the water
God’s gonna trouble the water

See that band all dressed in white
God is gonna trouble these waters
It look like a band of the Israelites
God is gonna trouble these waters

See that band all dressed in red
God is gonna trouble these waters
Look like a band that Moses led
God is gonna trouble these waters

My Lord delivered Daniel well
Daniel well, Daniel well
Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel well
Then why not every man?

Man went down to the river
Man went down to the river, Lord
Man went down to the river
Went down there for to pray

 

Man went down to the river
Man went down to the river, Lord
Man went down to the river
To wash his sins all away

Washed all day, washed all night
Washed till his hands were sore
Washed all day, washed all night
Till he couldn’t wash a-no more

(Hey)
Man went down to the river
Man went down to the river, Lord
Man went down to the river
Went down there for to pray

Man went down to the river
Man went down to the river, Lord
Man went down to the river
Washed his sins all away

Wade in the water
Wade in the water, children
Wade in the water
God is gonna trouble these waters

Wade in the water
Wade in the water, children
Wade in the water


God is gonna trouble these waters
God is gonna trouble these waters
God is gonna trouble these waters

Negro Spirituals have also been a way for different types of coping methods. For instance, with The Firsk Jubilee Singers, they were able to travel around the country and raise money to keep their school open by singing Negro Spirituals. Negro Spirituals have paved a way for many genres today like Blues and Gospel music. Artists like Bob Marley and Billy Braggs were able to carry on the tradition of creating protest and hopeful songs that could be seen as a subset of this genre. 

As mentioned above, Bob Marley sings a protest song called Redemption from the album Uprising. This song discussed how overcome trials and tribulations with heavenly aid. 

Pictured: The Fisk Jubilee Singers

In conclusion, Negro Spirituals have paved the way for plenty of the genres that are prevalent in our society today. They speak up about the wronging that one may experience and provide encouragement.