Negro Spirituals

By: Jala Stubbs

Negro Spirituals laid the foundation for folk music, as they are the traditional music of the enslaved. Negro spirituals were religious songs that rallied communities and became a common ground for expression. 

Spiritual Seedlings

The Great Awakening was the pre-requisite to the negro spiritual era and it began in 1790. In the South, Clandestine gatherings took place not only in the church but in ordinary settings such as ravines and their living quarters. The secret worship practice violated laws prohibiting enslaved assembly without white supervision, being caught could result in deadly consequences.

Elements of Negro Spirituals

In negro spirituals make use of the double entendre. Double entendre’s are song text with double meanings.  Double entendre’s were necessary in negro spiritual music because it offered a means of communication ‘under the table’. Ring Shout is characterized by leader-chorus, antiphonal chorus, hand-clapping, and other percussions. Ring shout normally includes highly stylized religious dance in a moving circle. 

Spreading the Music

The concert spiritual or arranged spiritual enabled slave songs to become a commodity. The music reached most listeners through live performances like a showcase, such as the performances the Spelman Glee Club organizes. 

Other Works by the Author

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