History of Negro Spirituals

  • Spirituals were religious songs made by African Americans during slavery whereas hymns were loosely based on biblical scripture
  •  The Great Awakening, a period of religious revival that swept around the colonies in the 18th century, led to the birth of negro spirituals

In the South, slaves would meet in secret because it was illegal, at the time, for them to gather without white supervision. Therefore, they would carefully meet in ravines, fields, or slave living quarters

Like folk music, negro spirituals used call and response: a lead begins a line which is followed by a choral response (often sung to fast, rhythmic tempos)

Slave dialect used in Spirituals

  •  Heaven – Heav’n, Heb’n, Heb’m 
  • Children – Chillun, Chil’n, Childun
  • For – fer
  • The – de
  • Jubilee – Juberlee
  • Religion – ‘ligion
  • my – ma, m’
  • and – ‘n’, an’
  • there – dere
  • more – mo’
  • get – git

Negro spirituals brought about arranged singing for choirs

Ring Shout: a form of folk spiritual characterized by leader-chorus antiphonal singing, hand clapping, which incorporates highly stylized religious dance as participants move in a counterclockwise circle

Sources: Negro Spiritual powerpoint and https://spirituals-database.com/the-negro-spiritual/

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