When life gives you Lemons make Lemonade (or Negro Spirituals)

Sour Effects of Lemons in the Great Awakening:

What is the Great Awakening?

The Great Awakening gave birth to the expansion of Christianity to everyone in the 13 Colonies including slaves. In the beginning, the slaves refused to accept a religion given to them by their oppressors. Many Slave-masters sought to use religion to control slaves.   As slaves began to interpret the bible they began to connect to many stories within it. It helped them find peace in the struggle to freedom and give them hope. This interpretation would transform into the creation of spirituals, aka Sorrow Songs, which are slow songs that portray the struggles within slavery. Essentially African American slaves toke a concept that was supposed to negatively affect them and they made it into a concept of healing and peace for themselves. A concept that many African Americans use today. 

The Lemons of the Great Awakening:

It was a   widespread religious revival in the 13 Colonies in America during the late 1700s. Created by White and English ministers sweeping the east coast preaching and persuading colonists to engage in salvation by the means of Christianity. It became a large movement that spread the idea of the religion of Christianity being set as a precedent for how to govern and a way of life. It can still be seen in the creation of laws and rules that founded this country. Ministers preached to everyone in the colonies regardless of race, social class, and other divisions in society. 

Slavery During the Great Awakening:

During this time Slaves were also affected and Christianity was used to gain control and oppress slaves from revolting and maintaining freedom. Slaves indirectly used the religion to their own benefit creating their own sense of peace and freedom using the gospel. This led to the creation of Negro Spirituals and Hymns. 


Example of Negro Spirituals Songs from The Great Awakening:

“Wade in the Water,”

African American Spiritual


Stanza 1

  1. 1. See that host all dressed in white,

God’s a gonna trouble the water.

The leader looks like the Israelite,

God’s a gonna trouble the water.


Stanza 2

  1. See that band all dressed in red,

God’s a gonna trouble the water.

Looks like the band that Moses led,

God’s a gonna trouble the water.

The first two stanzas, were written based on the Bible Scripture in Exodus 14:21-31. This part of the Bible referees to the mass exodus of Israelite's in search of freedom. A situation that was very similar to African Slaves in America.

Job 1:1, 2:1-10; Psalm 26; Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16.


 The featured  Bible verses reflect the song of  the first two stanzas of  “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child”. This also reflects  how slaves felt when separated from family members due to slave auctions.

Sometimes I feel like a motherless Child-African American Spiritual

Stanza 1:

Sometimes I feel like I’m almost done

Sometimes I feel like I’m almost done

Sometimes I feel like I’m almost done

And a long, long way from home, a long way from home

Stanza 2:

True believer

True believer

A long, long way from home

A long, long way from home

Job 1:1, 2:1-10; Psalm 26; Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16. The featured  Bible verses reflect the song of  Sometimes I feel like a motherless child and also how slaves felt.

Use of Negro Spirituals in Today’s Society:

Music Categories of Spirituals

Categories of Spirituals:


  • Call and response – A “leader” begins a line, which is then followed by a choral response; often sung to a fast, rhythmic tempo 
  • Slow and melodic – Songs with exaggerating phrases and  a slow tempo (“Deep River”)
  • Fast and rhythmic – Fast songs  with a syncopated rhythm that tell a story in ( “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho”)



Praise Dance: Aka “liturgical dance,” is a style in which dancers reenact the Christian Gospel through the art of movement. It can include ballet, jazz, and lyrical styles of dancing as well.


Alvin Ailey: African American Dance Theater is a modern dance company. They incorporate several negro spirituals into their performances. Many of the performances have exposed people around the world to the history of Negro Spirituals and African Americans.



Negro Spirituals are also a common concept in church. It is used during Praise and Worship. It is performed by a choir and oftentimes accompanied by praise dancers. These spirituals are dominated in Baptist and Methodist Church especially in the southern part of the United States of America. 


In summary, The Great Awakening led to the one of  greatest development’s in African American Culture. It was suppose to control Black enslaved people and make them feel in-superior to their masters. In reality, learning about Christianity and creating Negro Spirituals gave them a sense of freedom and peace. They were able to relate back to stories in the bible and it gave them something to relate in times of struggle. 

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