The Impact Negro Spirtuals Has on the Workforce
by: Christine Bynum and Tristan Coren

What is a Work Song?

Falling within the genre of Negro Spirtiuals, work songs are closely connected to a form of work, typically sung while performing a task (usually to coordinate timing). Could also be a song associated with a task that might be a connected description, narrative, or protest songs.

The rhythms of work songs, similar to an African drum beat, served to synchronize physical tasks in groups, coordinating harvesting, sowing, and hoeing.

Work Songs Connection to Slavery: 

Songs were often sung as the slaves worked throughout the day on the plantation encouraged by the slave owners, who saw them as means of increasing the slaves’ work output and maintaining their morale. Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy.  The songs of the slaves represent the sorrows of his life…The composing of work songs, like most African-American folk music, was done spontaneously and collectively; it usually expressed an immediate concern or referred to an event in the lives of the slaves

Work Songs Impact on Modern Day:

Oftentimes when performing strenuous or unexciting work, people will listen to music in an attempt to speed up time. While it can fall into the category of a work song, it can also be considered hype music. Hype music encourages one to complete a task by inducing a feeling of excitement and overall winning. People often listen to hype music when working out, cleaning, and performing computer work.

Examples of Work Songs During Enslavement

Examples of Work Songs from the 21st Century