Modern day society’s art expression had practical uses for our ancestors. For example, cornrows are rumored to be used as maps or food storage for the survival of the enslaved. In a sense, music was used in a similar way. Music and religion were an integral part of everyday life in Africa. Christianity was only introduced to the enslaved because slave masters disagreed with their beliefs and way of worship, explaining Negro spirituals basis around biblical characters and places.

Death and escape were extreme forms of resistance compared to small acts of rebellion such as work slow downs or breaking tools. The popular negro spiritual “Steal Away” contains a double meaning referring to both extreme forms of resistance. Verse 1 says “my Lord he calls me, He calls me by the thunder…I ain’t got long to stay here,” translating death and heaven as better means than bondage. Steal Away was also used by leaders such as Harriet Tubman and Nat Turner to gather those who wished to escape to freedom. As a known leader, Tubman adopted the nickname Moses, using the spiritual Go Down Moses on her journey through the underground railroad to identify herself to the enslaved that wished to escape.

To us, what may just be a cute hairstyle or moving song meant so much more to our ancestors.


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