Spirtuals vs Hymns

What is Spirituals?

Spirituals were the religious music of the African enslaves from the beginning of the 18th centenary until the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865. It is an expression of Christianity religion from culture, social and physical experiences of involuntary servitude. African enslaves view  Christian faith differently from the slaveholders’ point of view; they see themselves in the bible and related to symbolized freedom.

African American Spirituals have a call and response musical style to it, which involves someone who sings first and follows by a group. It displays hand clapping, body movement, and shouting.

An example of Spirituals song are “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” by Wallis Wills, and “Jesus Knows All About My Troubles”


Hymns are  rhythm style that is typically 8 bars couplets and it is loosely based on bible scriptures.

An examples of Hymns will be Go Down Moses, and Didn’t My Lord  Deliver Daniel

In general , spiritual and hymns are an essential part of African American music and culture. It showcases how African enslaves would use Spiritual and Hymns to express themselves and live through their spirituality. It also led and turned into gospel decades later.


“African American Spirituals.” The Library of Congress. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200197495/.

Burnim, Mellonee V, and Portia K Maultsby, eds. African American Music: an Introduction – 2nd Ed. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2015.






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