Negro Spirituals: Heaven or Hell?

Negro Spirituals originated from The Great Awakening era, during the 16th century. During this time, Christianity was forced on enslaved African Americans by their owners. In turn, Negro Spirituals were created and inherently different from the Eurocentric Psalms, which was observed by the slave owners when hearing the Negro Spirituals.

Elements of the Negro Spiritual

Similarly to African American Folk Music, The Negro Spiritual captured the essence of pain and strife that slavery brought on to the enslaved, but also a sense of hope. Within the same context, there are similar aspects of both of Negro Spirituals and Folk music. Some of these elements include improvised lyrics and call-and-response. In the same token, the two genres also differ greatly. Negro spirituals also have elements like timbers and double entendres. This contrasts from Folk music because while rhythm is clear within Folk music, the timbres of Negro Spirituals are more ambiguous. Also, double entendres served two different meanings when heard compared to the one meaning in Folk music. Once again, the two also compare because there are no primary performers of the Negro Spirituals much like African American Folk Music. Slave Masters commodified this genre into a book composing of Negro Spirituals. So much like Folk music, there is not a name attached to Negro Spirituals but we are still influenced by it.


Social Implications

The social implications of the Negro Spirituals were extremely prevalent during their rise. One of the first implications deal with the double-meaning context of Negro Spirituals. For many Negro Spirituals, there was a religious context when viewed from a standpoint or from a slave-master standpoint. On the other hand, there was a implied communication between slaves that they will be escaping the plantation to freedom. Another social implication of Negro Spirituals is a sense of longing or connectedness to Africa. Many enslaved African Americans had a sense of longing to go back to Africa although they had never been due to there being a time period of about 200 years. Although there was a disconnect of African culture, that longing still remained. Lastly, there was a lot of confusion within the lyrics of this genre. Many enslaved people questioned their terrible treatment and longed to one day be free of suffering in Heaven.

Influences of the Negro Spirituals on other Music genres

Negro spirituals have evolved into many different forms within the past few centuries. There are arranged spirituals which are arranged with musical instruments such as the piano. Another form of Negro Spirituals is a concert spiritual which is arranged to be performed in concerts. Lastly, the most recent influence of Negro Spirituals are current gospel music.

Conclusary Opinion

Negro Spirituals establishes how creative African Americans are in terms of turning lemons into lemonade. Slave masters forced a religion onto us and we created a way to make it our own as well as flipping the music we created to our advantage. Our culture has forever been endebted into our history as well as our DNA.

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