Our Music: Why Negro Spirituals Still Resonates

The Origins of Negro Spirituals

Negro Spirituals were the songs of slaves. It was combination of the slave’s cultural retentions and the the Christian religion that was forced upon them. Negro spirituals were a form of worship, but they also held deeper meanings. Spirituals like Wade in the Water and Swing Low Sweet Chariot, were use as guides for escaping slaves. It signaled that they were getting  picked up by nightfall and and helped show slaves where to go.

Elements of  Negro Spirtual

In the eyes of most the adoption of Christianity by slaves and their descendants signaled a loss of culture. This , however, couldn’t be farther from the truth. Slaves to the religion of their masters and transformed it into something personal. They’re ways of worshiped retained many elements of African music. Instruments like drums were banned , but slaves still created semblances of percussion. Call and response were still very integral parts of worship through negro spirituals. And dance , which is another important part of African celebration, could be would in a a type of spiritual group circle dance called ring shouts. Yes, out culture was stolen from us and another was for upon us, but we never let go of our roots. 

Social Implications of Negro Spirituals

Negro Spirituals had multiple meanings. While the masters heard one thing, the slaves hear another. This is an element of Negro Spirituals is call double entendre. This allowed slaves to express themselves under the strict watch of slave masters. Slaves also felt deeply connected to the people of Israel whom God freed from enslavement. By singing these songs , slaves were able to inspire hope in themselves that God would one day free them too.

Important Performers

Negro spirituals were performed first and foremost by enslaved African people. There is no way to trace the exact slave or group of slaves who created these songs. What is known is that their voices have trickled down through their descendants and ingrained itself permanently in religious history. There have been many performers whom helped carry these song into modern times such as Paul Robeson and Odetta.


Negro Spirituals were crafted by African slaves whom were not paid for any versions of their songs that have traveled into modern times. There are song that were written down into books and sold by white slave owners. The slaves , however, received none of the money.

Future Influence of Negro Spirituals

Negro spirituals eventually evolved into concert spirituals. Theses were non-improvised  spirituals that had some basis in Western classical music vocal techniques. While Folk spirituals usually involved repetition , arranged spirituals followed the rules of printed scores.This directly influenced the way we perform Negro Spirituals now.

Conclusory Opinion

Slaves were forbidden to read, bible included, but they heard a lot. They were able to piece together what they heard to create the Negro Spiritual. These Songs are important for our culture and tell our brutal but beautiful history.

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