Origins

Negro Spirituals is a genre of songs created by African-Americans during the time of enslavement.  The spirituals were used as a form of communication and encouragement, while enforcing Christian values.

Elements

Negro Spirituals were a way of sharing the stories in the Bible.  Most slaves could not read, so when stories were told, they were translated into song so that others may also learn the stories in the bible.  The spiritual “Wade in the Water” not only informed of biblical stories but served as a form of communication to slaves on the underground railroad.  The song includes secret codes that helped African Americans escape the bloodhounds that were used to track down slaves escaping via the underground railroad. And again this song is still notable amongst the black communities today.

Performers

One performer of Negro Spirituals is Jester Hairston.  Hairston was regarded an expert on Negro Spirituals, and a composer and choral conductor of spirituals.  Hairston was also an actor and he was a cast member of the television show Amen. Another performer is Roland Hayes. Roland Hayes was a Negro Spiritual performer (insert media link of recording of Roland Hayes singing Go Down Moses) and was one of the first to record Negro Spirituals.

In addition, the songs often feature a call and response style with very gloomy and low tunes. These tunes were not only used to share christian values, but also used as a way to express themselves. They were codified protest songs against enslavement.

Performers

Roland Hayes
Jester Hairston

Although Negro Spirituals evolved far long ago and we may never know who actually created the original spirituals, there are still some prominent figures who are associated with this genre. One performer of Negro Spirituals is Jester Hairston.  Hairston was regarded as an expert on Negro Spirituals. He is known as a composer and choral conductor. Hairston was also an actor and was a cast member of the television show, Amen. Another performer is Roland Hayes. Roland Hayes was a Negro Spiritual performer and was one of the first to record Negro Spirituals.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgaYnKXqqL4

Social Implications

Spirituals have become integral in the history of African-American people, not simply as a marker of religious traditions, but also as they pertain to communication amongst the enslaved.

The songs themselves serve as a reminder of the resilience and persistence of African-Americans, especially since the songs themselves were not recorded until after slavery had been abolished. Furthermore, many of these spirituals are still relevant today. African Americans are often lost because we have been disconnected from our heritage for so long. On top of that, the discrimination and odds stacked against us are issues that African Americans still deal with everyday. These are all feelings that have been expressed in the negro spirituals before. Therefore, these songs have become a part of us and a part of our culture. Their influence is just as great as it was in the 1800s.

Conclusion

I had always known about Negro Spirituals but now I have a much better understanding of their significance and historical value. I have grown to value them and their origins and believe that they should continue to be preserved and highly respected.