The Modern World's Definition of Negro Spirituals and How They Influenced Civil Rights

by Noel Harris and Amaya Roberts

When we think about our musical preferences in today’s society, we often wonder where they originated from. Negro spirituals, for example, have had a significant influence on African American music. A negro spiritual is a devotional song connected with black Christians in the southern United States and said to have originated from black slaves’ blend of European hymns and African musical elements. Spirituals from the African-American community are recognized for their raw emotion and hidden messages.  As a result of this different style of music, it had a long-term impact on African American music. During the civil rights movement, for example, music was a common outlet for African Americans to express their feelings about the injustice they faced. Even now, artists express the hardships that African Americans experience through their work. The voice and lyrics have a raw emotion and authenticity to them, similar to negro spirituals from decades earlier. Below are some examples from the civil rights era and current songs that demonstrate how music was used to express their feelings during this time period.

Civil Rights Era: 1960's

In these examples from the civil rights era, these artists demonstrate the emotions of how they were feeling during segregation in the United States. For example, when John Legend sings “Glory” he demonstrates the pain and agony in black people during the time. The song selections broadcast different types of music actuality when speaking about the injustice for African Americans and how they all want it to end.  

Current: 2020

In May of 2020, George Floyd in Minneapolis was killed by a white police officer. In the videos selected above, there is actually footage of police brutality. In Trey Songz’s “2020 riots: How Many Times “ he questions society and asks how long will injustice continue. As a youth that got to see history transpire in our eyes. Artists that we listen to made reality come to life through their lyrics and voice. Giving blacks and whites a visual of what injustice really is.

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