Do you sing while you work?- The History Behind Work Songs

Created by: Angel Milton

“Life seems to go on without effort when I am filled with music.”

-George Eliot

What are work songs?

Work Songs are usually “easy to sing along” songs that people would start to sing while working. In doing so, workers would also express their feelings about the job as they work. Even in our every day lives, WE sometimes find ourselves singing a familiar tune which in doing so would allow for time to fly. 

Connection to Slavery

A lot of songs have been known to pass down from generation to generation. We know them as spirituals which were songs that the African slaves would sing as they’d work. Although this is true, it’s safe to say that the songs meant more to them than just something that helped them work. These songs served as motivational promises to help them keep their eyes on the prize; getting their freedom.

Slaves gave secret and sacred messages, and prayers to communicate to one another while on the fields. This worked to their advantage because the masters wouldn’t pay close attention to what they’d say, they were just singing to each other. They sometimes incorporated the movements and sounds of the workers’ tasks into the songs as well. The singing represents just how much music is involved in our daily lives. 


Work songs served as an escape from the realities of these workers. it’s safe to say that they weren’t enjoying all of the gruesome labor but singing made it a tolerable experience. Today we recognize these singers who have carried on this legacy, a legacy in which we’ll never forget. 

A few work songs...

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