Emotion The reader can feel the slow and steady beat of the music: The flow of the two lines mimics the beat of the music.
Spirituals were primarily expressions of religious faith. Some may also have served as socio-political protests veiled as assimilation to white American culture.
They originated among enslaved Africans in the United States. Slavery was introduced to the British colonies in the early 17th century, and enslaved people largely replaced indentured servants as an economic labor force during the 17th century. In the United States, these people would remain in bondage for the entire 18th century and much of the 19th century.
Most were not fully emancipated until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in Suppression of indigenous religion[ edit ] This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources.
Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. August Learn how and when to remove this template message Slaves were forbidden to speak their native languages, and were generally converted to Christianity. With narrow vocabularies, slaves would use the words they did know to translate biblical information and facts from their other sources into song.
Forced conversion only worked to a point since church attendance might be required, but control could not extend to thoughts and feelings.
Some slaves became Christians voluntarily, either because it helped them endure hardships or because membership may have offered other benefits. In some places enslaved Africans were permitted, or even encouraged, to hold their own prayer meetings.
Shouts begin slowly with the shuffling of feet and clapping of hands but the feet never cross because that was seen as dancing, which was forbidden within the church. Drums were used as they had been in Africa, for communication. When the connection between drumming, communication, and resistance was eventually made drums were forbidden.
Slaves introduced a number of new instruments to America: They drew on native rhythms and their African heritage. The primary function of the spirituals was as communal songs sung in a religious gathering, performed in a call-response pattern reminiscent of West African traditional religions.
Examples include the "call and response" style of preaching in which the speaker speaks for an interval and the congregation responds in unison in a continual pattern throughout the sermon. Speaking in tongues is also a persistent practice, as is "getting happy. In spirituals, there also rose what is known as the "straining preacher" sound where the preacher, during song, literally strains the voice to produce a unique tone.
This is used throughout recorded spirituals, blues, and jazz music. The locations and the era may be different; but the same emphasis on combining sound, movement, emotion, and communal interaction into one focus on faith and its role in overcoming struggles, whether as an individual or a people group, remain the same.
Christianity's influence[ edit ] Christian hymns and songs were very influential on the writing of African-American spirituals, especially those from the "Great Awakening" of the s.
As Africans were exposed to stories from the Bible, they began to see parallels to their own experiences. The story of the exile of the Jews and their captivity in Babylon, resonated with their own captivity. There is also a duality in the lyrics of spirituals. They communicated many Christian ideals while also communicating the hardship that was a result of being an African-American slave.
The spiritual was often directly tied to the composer's life.
The river Jordan in traditional African American religious song became a symbolic borderland not only between this world and the next. It could also symbolize travel to the north and freedom or could signify a proverbial border from the status of slavery to living free.
The rhythms of Protestant hymns were transformed and the songs were played on African-inspired instruments. Frederick Douglasshimself a former slave who became one of the leading 19th-century African-American literary and cultural figures, emphasized the dual nature of the lyrics of spirituals when he recalled in Chapter VI of his My Bondage and My Freedom:Feb 22, · A decade-by-decade history of race and racism in America, compiled by a National Book Award Winner.
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