Spirituals vs. Hymns


Spiritual and hymns play a big role in African American music and culture. It demonstrated how enslaved African Americans would use Spiritual and Hymns as a way of self-expression. Though they are similar, Spirituals and hymns are not the same.

What is a Spiritual ?

Spirituals are the earliest form of religious music developed by African Americans. This genre of music was developed during the time of involuntary servitude, it was used to symbolize slaves’ unique expression of Christian religious values. This music reflected the social, cultural, and physical experiences of African Americans during slavery.

A Spiritual

Spirituals were the earliest form of indigenous a capella religious music developed by our African American ancestors.


It is important to note that spirituals are not the same as hymns. Hymns are compositions loosely based on biblical scripture. It has been said that hymns come from classical music, whereas spirituals come from the Holy Spirit itself.

Here is an example of a well known hymn¬† “Amazing Grace”.

Overall, these different types of music especially the spirituals were a symbol. It symbolized the only freedom these African Americans had. The only way slaves could express themselves. Expressing how they were people taken away from their homes, now in a foreign land. Though, they were different they had a lasting impact. 

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