The “Spiritual” History of the Spelman College Glee Club

Negro spirituals are a sub-genre of Christian music that was purely created by enslaved Africans in the United States. The Negro spiritual was originally conceived as a result of the Great Awakening which introduced Christianity to enslaved Africans as a method of reinforcing the infrastructure of slavery in the United States.  These spirituals are richly textured mosaics of Christian beliefs intertwined with African-derived cultures. The spirituals allowed the enslaved Africans to embrace the individual and collective identity of persons of African descent in the New World. Negro spirituals served as communication where Africans could convey subliminal messages understood by members of the group. Singing the spiritual was also a way to wage systematic warfare on the institution that imposed their bondage in slavery.

As a musical genre, Negro spirituals have historically functioned as both religious and cultural expressions for its creators. Although the spiritual was created on American soil, it illustrates the embodiment of an African cultural past. 

Spelman College is a historically black college exclusively for African American women founded in 1881 in Atlanta, Georgia. Nearly half a decade later, the Spelman College Glee Club was founded by director Dr.Kemper Harreld.  Since its creation, the world renowned Spelman College Glee Club has become the premier singing group at Spelman College.  The Glee Club performs repertoire including selections from world cultures, commission works, sacred and secular choral literature, music by African American composers, and Negro Spirituals. 

Currently the Spelman College Glee Club is under the direction of director Dr. Kevin Johnson, a renowned musician who travels throughout the United States and Europe providing choral workshops, seminars, and master classes.  Dr. Johnson is also an accomplished composer who has written a plethora of music for the Spelman College Glee Club including “We Are Christmas”,”A Choice to Change the World”, and “Children, Go Where I Send Thee”. For the Spelman College Glee Club, negro spirituals are an essential genre in their repertoire that demonstrate versatility and an understanding of the generations of plight that African American women before them endured. With this responsibility, the Spelman College Glee Club continues its tradition of amazing and inspiring all the communities that they reach.

What's your password?

Login to your account

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