Spirituals are often mistaken for hymns, but they are actually performance styles that are associated with hymns and psalms. This performance style of song was introduced to African enslaved people by way of Christianity by European missionaries. Spirituals were the earliest form of religious music to develop amongst African Americans. It is a unique expression of religious values and ideals, based on their social, cultural and physical experiences, “of prolonged involuntary servitude”.
Mahalia Jackson is famous for her performance of Negro Spirituals including the song “Oh My Lord.” Other examples of Negro spirituals include“ Free at Last,” “Wade in the Water,” and “Roll Jordan Roll”
In today’s day and age negro spirituals are considered gospel songs, as they have since given way to the Gospel genre of music. They are often testimonies of ex-enslaved African people to document the pain but also the faith they had. Some of these are commonly heard at events that bring us back to the history of our ancestors.
Alexa and I have determined that Negros spirituals provided a way of releasing emotions that were often kept inside in order to survive. They presented a way of expressing African-American’s gratitude to God as well as keeping faith through their endeavors.
By: Isis Benjamin & Alexa Johnson