Negro Spirituals

By Mikayla Reid


     During the Enslavement era, the enslaved Africans sang negro spirituals to discuss their struggles and express their faith in God. Some spirituals empowered the enslaved and gave them hope. Slave masters disliked the spirituals because they viewed it as rebellion. They also sang the songs to make time go by as they worked. The negro spirituals were also a way for the enslaved to communicate with each other on plantations. They also did not like the concepts of clapping, stomping, shouting, and call and response from negro spirituals, which were influences African and folk music. Therefore, the enslaved created indivisible institutions. They gathered in secret to worship and sing on their own. 

     Fisk University was founded in 1866 by the American Missionary Association. The school was open for educating emancipated slaves. Most Historically Black Institutions were established by the Black church and Black religious groups. The school struggled financially, so students would perform to raise money for the school. Negro spirituals were moved to the concert stage. The Fisk Jubilee singers inspired groups from other Historically Black Colleges, like Hampton and Fairfield Normal Institute. Negro Spirituals are embraced by Historically Black Colleges. The choir uses unique vocal techniques like Heterophony. Which is still used to this day. HBCU (Historically Black College and University) choirs pay homage to Negro spirituals and African American choirs by singing renditions of the Negro Spirituals. Negro Spirituals and choirs are part of Black and HBCU Culture.  

            The negro spirituals became a way for students in Historically Black Colleges to make money. One example would be the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Fisk University was one of the first HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) to bring negro spirituals on stage and perform them in concerts. The singers traveled around the country and raised money for their school. The Fisk jubilee singers proved that Black people could perform professionally in concert style instead of minstrel shows. 

Slave Songs of the United States

White abolitionists collected negro spirituals and published them. Slave songs were put into sheet music and made into a book. It was published in 1867. Some African Americans were able to sing spirituals on records.

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