Negro Spirituals: The Great Awakening and The Invisible Church

Negro Spirituals originated from the hearts, minds, and souls of Africans who were captured and soon after sold into slavery. As a result of being stripped away from their land and being sold, many Africans were robbed of their cultures, families, and languages. The one thing that the slaves held on to that could never be taken away was their song. If they had nothing else, the slaves had the power and the strength that resided within their music and still lives on today.



Slaves began to take on the practices of Christianity just as their masters had done. The messages within the spirituals were a direct reflection of the slaves new found faith and their will to carry on. The “Invisible Church”, or places used for means other than worship, allowed for slaves to gather and sing their song creatively and cooperatively . Negro spirituals allowed slaves to communicate secret messages amongst each other while the slave masters remained overly oblivious. Because these songs and messages were passed down and constructed orally, there is no known specific number of spirituals. Singers such as Mahalia Jackson, Nat King Cole, and Odetta improvised such songs to fit their own style of singing.

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