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How Black Spirituals Hymns Sustained American Slaves

Negro Spirituals were songs composed and sang by American Black ancestors in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were songs of resistance, codes and were often used for deep emotional expression. Negro Spirituals were used to express painful hurts. They can be used as codes to communicate externally amongst themselves, but spirituals were often used to reach deep into their own souls. Without the Negro Spirituals songs, lives would have been so depressing, and every waking day would have been beyond unbearable.

The popular hymns like ‘Amazing Grace How Sweet Thou Sounds’ were good, but they had their place. Black slaves could hardly relate to it. Understandably so, it’s hard to sing of grace when you are physically in bondage. But hymns like ‘ A long, long way from home‘ song with other negros and good hand clap can make people tear up, relieve tension, and stay energized for another day. The Negro Spirituals song did not only support the exodus of the 17th century Black people in the west but also helped strengthen their faith in the supremacy of that eternal being, God Almighty.

The points below explore how Negro Spirituals sustained the American Black ancestors:

1. Negro Spirituals brought revival

The first generation of African American ministers—George Liele, Andrew Bryan and David George rose from this revival. And they extended the gospel to a large number of people, both blacks and whites Americans alike. Andrew Bryan was one of the revivalists who, along with his brother, got arrested for preaching to slaves. The risk they took paid off: it did not take time for the slaves to accept the gospel of Christ. Although the bible the slaves were introduced to tells a history of the Jews held in Egyptian captivity, the American slave ancestors quickly saw themselves in this story.

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2. Gospel Resonated more

It can be argued that the gospel of truth kept the early Negros’s dispensation alive and thriving. They read in the bible that whosesoever believed in Christ will not perish. They did not need to worry about Abraham’s identity since Christ’s journey on earth was exactly to communicate that they are part of that faith covenant. They could care less about their bodies which were slaving away anyway; their bodies that just a random white person can abuse and maim at will. Furthermore, Christ’s rapport with the Samaritan woman at the well is clear: it is about the spirit and not the tradition. They knew that the slave masters had their bodies, but not their souls nor their spirits.

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You may also like: 5 Movies that Retold the African-American History.

3. Negro Spirituals fed joy

Joy is what we feel in our soul. It is always internal and impervious to all external stimuli. Negro Spirituals offered the light at the tunnel, giving the Black ancestors that inner joy that no one could take away. With all the brutal experiences and deprivation faced by early African Americans in the US, Negro Spirituals was instrumental in helping them face another day. In a way, the Negro spirituals were a conversion into a different kind of faith, a type of joy that boosted their sense of self and created a lasting bond.

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4. Negro Spirituals became a part of American culture

Negro spirituals had a massive impact as they became America’s voice all over the world. We did not sing spirituals because it was rhythmic but because it was our enchantment and hope.

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It brought purpose, comfort, anticipation, and resilience. Today, the spirituals are now in jazz and blues, some of which we sang during the civil rights movement. In 2019, with the ever-ambitious Kanye West, we saw Negro spirituals stealthily making its way into American pop when West released an album titled ‘Jesus is King.’

Negro Spirituals Hymns

The shackles and chains could not define us.

A popular rhythm blues Shackles by Mary Mary, has this verse;  

So much pressure fell on me.
I thought I was gon lose my mind.
But I know you wanna see if I will hold on through these trials
But I need you to lift this load 
Cause I can't take it anymore

Misery Breeded Hymns by Black Folks

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
A long-drawn-out from home, 
A long-drawn-out from home

Sometimes I feel like I'm almost there
Sometimes I feel like I'm almost there
Sometimes I feel like I'm almost there
A long, long-drawn-out from home,
A long-drawn-out from home.

True believer
True believer
A long, long way from home
A long, long way from home

[A Traditional Negro Spiritual]

Wrapping it Up

With the American Black ancestors, Negro spirituals may emphasize tears, anguish and trials. Now we know that the concept exemplifies our salvation, deliverance, repentance, strength, and victory in God.

Your turn: Are you a lover of Negro spirituals? Do you sometimes hear yourself singing ‘We Shall Overcome’? How have these songs impacted you? Share your comments below.

VIAAfroGist Media
SOURCEBlack Faith
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