The Legacy of Negro Spirituals- Alana Edmond

What Is a Negro Spiritual? 

A Negro Spiritual is a genre of sacred music whose lyrics combine Christian values with the tribualtions of slavery.


The Negro Spiritual genre derived from enslaved Africans on plantations in the 18th century. Enslaved Africans were not allowed to practice their own religions during slavery, so they were forced to adopt Christianity by the plantation owners. Using elements from their culture such as the practice of “ring shout” and “call and response” as well as their newly adopted religion of Christianity, the enslaved were able to express themselves musically and created spirituals. These songs often expressed the anguish and despair caused by bondage, but some spirituals conveyed the faith and hope they had in God to bring a better day.

Spirituals as Protest

Negro Spirituals were more than just expressions of pain and hope. Many spituals included coded language that directed the enslaved community to freedom. For example, one of the most well known Negro Spirtiuals, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” was speculated to be a coded song. (See Picture to left). Songs like “I Got My Ticket” and “Go Down Moses” were also coded spirituals. 


Negro Spirituals paved the way for many more forms and genres of music to come. Like many forms of Black Music, spirituals were recorded and commercialized by white people. This in turn, introduced the genre to mainstream pop-culture. Moreover, The Fisk Jubilee Singers became a national success due to their performances of spirituals as Concert  Spirituals. After emancipation, the genre transformed into Gospel music, however this is not to say Negro Spirituals aren’t being made today. Negro Spirituals are still being composed and continue to reflect the state of Black people in America.

Alana Edmond

Alana Edmond

Folk Article Review- Alana Edmond

Folk Music Review- Alana Edmond The article titled, “The History of Folk Music” by A’Shiah N. explains the origins, elements, social implications and notable performers

Read More »

Disco- Alana Edmond

Stayin’ Alive through the 70s: DiscoAlana Edmond What is Disco? Disco is a form of nightlife dance music and culture that emerged in the 1970s.

Read More »

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.