Swing Low Sweet Chariot: Negro Spirituals

Songs of the Soul-Negro Spirituals


During Slave times, rural slaves would stay after church services to sing Negro spirituals. Negro spirituals were influenced by folk music and the lyrics connected directly to the author of the songs, the enslaved negro.


Call and response- a form where a leader or main singer will sing or say something for the congregation or other singers to respond to

Double entendre – While singing, the enslaved could normally not directly sing what they meant in fear of plans being exposed or them being punished. Because of this most negro spirituals had double meanings.

Social Implications

At this time, negro spirituals were used as a way for the enslaved to express themselves with the least amount of backlash from the white man. Due to most of these songs having double entendres the enslaved were able to talk to each other in sort of a code during this singing.

Famous Performers

Harry Burleigh

Robert Dett

John Johnson


Future Influence

Music today would not be what it is without the creation of negro spirituals. Genres like blues, gospel have direct evidence of influence from negro spirituals. To this day, negro spirituals can still be heard from black churches in a way to praise the Lord and pay homage to ancestors.


White people received commodification for negro spirituals because they forced the enslaved to perform for other people or came and published the negro spirituals created by the enslaved. Most of the originators have been erased from history

My Opinion and Overall Summary

Without the creation of negro spirituals, music would not be what it is today. Negro Spirituals gave our ancestors the tools they needed to continue on their journey which was strength and courage. Most music today does not have meaning or the ability to do that. Negro spirituals laid the framework for not only gospel music but for all other genres after it, making it another accomplishment for the culture. 

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