The spirituals are historical songs which speak out about the rupture of black lives in a religious sense, telling us about people in a land of bondage, and what they did to stay united and somehow fight back.
In the late 1700s, they sang the precursors of spirituals, which were called "corn ditties".So, in rural areas, spirituals were sung, mainly outside of churches. In cities, about 1850, the Protestant City-Revival Movement created a new song genre, which was popular; for revival meetings organized by this movement, temporary tents were erected in stadiums, where the attendants could sing. At church, hymns and psalms were sung during services. Some of them were transformed into songs of a typical African American form: they are 'Dr Watts". The lyrics of negro spirituals were tightly linked with the lives of their authors: slaves.
Cone's The Spirituals and the Blues Essay
The best evidence, Locke seems to think, in support of thespirituals' claim to universality is that they have withstood thetest of time. As an art form they have outlived not only thegenerations that produced them but the peculiar social environment thatenlivened them. Beyond this the spirituals have survived
“Negro Spirituals” - NYPL Digital Collections
Negro SpiritualsSpirituals, a religious folk song of American origin, particularly associated with African-American Protestants of the southern United States. The African-American spiritual, characterized by syncopation, polyrhythmic structure, and the pentatonic scale of five whole tones, is, above all, a deeply emotional song. Spirituals are really the most characteristic product of the race genius as yet in America. But the very elements which make them uniquely expressive of the Negro make them at the same time deeply representative of the soil that produced them. Spirituals were long thought to be the only original folk music of the United States, and research into its origin centered mainly on the nature and extent of its African ancestry. Because slaves were brought to the United States from many parts of Africa, no single African musical source is clear.
Negro Spirituals - Leanne's Lit Den
Some Christian ministers wrote against on slavery. Rural slaves used to stay after the regular worship services, in churches or in plantation "praise houses", for singing and dancing. But, slaveholders did not allow dancing and playing drums, as usual in Africa. They also had meetings at secret places ("camp meetings", "bush meetings"), because they needed to meet one another and share their joys, pains and hopes. In rural meetings, thousands slaves were gathered and listened to itinerant preachers, and sang spirituals, for hours.
Negro spirituals were also sung by individuals ..
While work songs dealt only with their daily life, spirituals were inspired by the message of Jesus Christ and his Good News (Gospel) of the Bible, "You can be saved". They are different from hymns and psalms, because they were a way of sharing the hard condition of being a slave. Many slaves in town and in plantations tried to run to a "free country", that they called "my home" or "Sweet Canaan, the Promised Land". This country was on the Northern side of Ohio River, that they called "Jordan". Some negro spirituals refer to the Underground Railroad, an organization for helping slaves to run away. The Spirituals are spiritual. Conscious artistry and popular conception alike should never rob them of this heritage, untrue to their tradition and to the folk genius to give them another tone.