Negro Spirituals

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

Purpose of The Great Awakening:

The Great Awakening was meant to oppress African American Slaves, however, it led to a variety of advantages for slaves.
It created an entire music genre.

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. 

Sour Effects of Lemons in the Great Awakening:​

Religion of Christianity

 Spread of Christianity

Master Control with the use of the Bible

Created ideas that “God” was the Master

Degrade Slaves

Negro Spirituals

Used the Bible to become Literate

Send secret messages

Create a way of expression

Use for healing and Peace

Created Unity 

The Lemons of the Great Awakening:

Great Awakening Era

         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

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.

"Sometimes I feel like a motherless Child"-African American Spiritual

 The following bible verses are used in this song: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.


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


Use of Negro Spirituals in Today’s Society:

Elements: Negro Spirituals

Dance: Negro Spirituals

Church: Negro Spirituals

Elements of Negro Spirituals:

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”)

Call and Response- A “leader” begins a line, which is the then followed by a choral response; often sung to a fast, rhythmic temp


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 one of the greatest developments in African American Culture. It was supposed 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. As a result, the Balck population was able to use it to survive 300 years of slavery. It can still be seen in our culture again.

Work Cited:

What's your password?

Login to your account

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