Sounds to Move Your Spirit: Negro Spirituals


Negro spirituals were an essential component to the survival of enslaved African-Americans and demonstrate attitudes of resistance to white supremacy.


Negro spirituals are songs that were created by enslaved people as an outlet to express their emotions. Enslavement is an experience that makes humanity and human nature suddenly unfamiliar and strange. Negro spirituals are so remarkable because they reveal how despite enslavement Black people still held onto their humanity. It reflects the resilience and resistance of Black Americans in their journey to redefine their humanity.

Negro spirituals created a safe pace for the enslaved to address their troubles, confront their trauma, and heal their pain. Negro spirituals were significant for enslaved people because it was the earliest form of artistic expression. Negro spirituals were connected to enslaved peoples’ religion, Christianity, and spoke to their relationship with God. Enslaved people typically sang Negro Spirituals on the plantations when slaveholders were not around.

What makes Negro spirituals unique was that the lyrics and the notes were never written down until much later. The tradition of oral history remained prominent in enslaved people, which stems from many African cultures. Negro spirituals still play a prominent role in music today, specifically in Black churches. Some of the most famous negro spirituals are “Follow the Drinking Gourd”, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and “Wade In The Water.”


Negro spirituals serve as a powerful reminder of African-American history and continue to be a source of strength and resilience in the African-American community. It connects us to our ancestors and is one of the earliest examples of African-Americans using music as a tool of resistance. 


Works Cited

The Official Site of the Negro Spirituals, Antique Gospel Music,

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