Thomas Dorsey

The History of Negro Spirituals

Negro spirituals are a form of Christian music, created by African Americans during slavery. Singing these spirituals were a way to communicate, send messages, and they were even used as motivation. Spirituals merged African culture with the experience that our ancestors went through during slavery.  Negro spirituals became the blue print for all of the music we hear today including: folk music, blues, gospel, and even hip-hop. The power of Negro Spirituals is so great that these songs have been down by from generation to generation.

After slavery ended, many composers took the Spirituals, arranged them, and made them Gospel songs. Composers like Thomas Dorsey are the reason why we are familiar with Negro Spirituals and why we can enjoy them in our churches and homes. 

Thomas Andrew Dorsey, also known as the “Father of Gospel Music”, was born in Georgia in 1899. He was the son of a Baptist preacher and an organ player. He moved to Chicago to start his legacy in music. While in Chicago, he wrote about 800 songs, organized the world’s first gospel chorus, and even founded the first company to sell Black gospel composers’ music.

Dorsey played an important role in the creation of 20th-century gospel music. This music derived from Negro Spirituals, some of which he arranged. Some of his songs include: “Hide Me in Thy Bosom”, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”, “There Will Be Peace In The Valley”, and more. The music Dorsey wrote and composed are now being performed all over the world by soloist, choirs, and small groups. 


In conclusion, Negro Spirituals paved a way for the many writers and composers that have come and gone. Without them, we wouldn’t have music. I think that it is important to acknowledge and appreciate the role Negro Spirituals have played in Black culture. 

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