The spirit of Negros, displayed through Music.

Where did Negro Spirituals originate?

Dating back to slavery years in the United States, from the 1600’s through the 1870’s, African-American spirituals, also known as Negro spirituals, connect strongly to the historical and personal experience of enslaved and oppressed people. This specific genre arose from the brutality of slavery, preserved African culture and the introduction of christianity.  Negro spirituals provide an insight to the everyday struggle for survival and freedom, while also expressing hope for change. 

Key Elements/Characteristics

One specific element of negro spirituals include call and response. Call and response is when during a song, a singer or instrumentalist makes a musical statement or call and it is answered by another singe or group. Resistance serves as another element of negro spirituals in that slaves used their songs, originating from their own African culture and experiences, instead of conforming to European practices. 


Distinct characteristics makes this genre identifiable. Typically low, slow and simple melodies are repeated throughout negro spirituals. These songs were soulful, passionate, melancholy and compelling in order to thoroughly depict the emotional strife of slaves.   

Popular Negro Spirituals

Social Implications and Commodification

Negro Spirituals has been said to be the start of all music genres. Spirituals allowed the enslaved to interpret and express their religious beliefs and feelings through music and has paved the way for new genres of music. However, making the shift from work and praise songs, spirituals became intertwined with mainstream music. Like most African culture, these spirituals were soon appropriated by White people. At this point, instead of this artistic expression residing in the black community, it has now  been transformed and claimed by other races who do not appreciate it’s origin and exploit it for their own benefit.


Personally, this trend is not unfamiliar to me, in fact, I can not think of any creative aspect of African culture that has not been appropriated by white people. I feel that the rightful ownership of this artistic expression, Negro Spirituals, should be reclaimed from our oppressors. 

Alexia Khalil

Alexia Khalil

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