Negro Spirituals by Janae Shaw

Negro Spirituals, which started the creation of folk music, was created by the enslaved after arriving in the New World. Within this era, many songs were produced orally, almost as a communication mechanism. These songs represented the life of the enslaved and often were used to uplift the community’s spirits and bring them a sense of joy and hope during this era. These songs act as stories, passed down from generation to generation in places such as in the fields, working on the plantations, and often in the church, bringing honor and praise to the Lord. Negro Spirituals also served as a way for the enslaved to communicate with one another without their master knowing and to prevent them from getting into trouble. For example, many spirituals were used during the Underground Railroad to help them get to freedom. On record, there are approximately 6,000 Negro Spirituals with melodies such as “Nobody Knows The Trouble I Have Seen,” Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, and “Wade in the Water.” It is important to note that after the creation of the Emancipation Proclamation, many of the Negro Spirituals ceased; however, this would not take away from the drastic impact it had on music.

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