Spirituals and their interpretation, from slavery to 1970
Hogges, Genithia Lilia
MetadataShow full item record
Why is it that "Steal Away" is better known than "Jesus on the Waterside?" This question can only be answered by examining the history of how Spirituals were brought to the attention of audiences beyond the plantation. Negro Spirituals began as a folk music tradition and were later developed into concert music for performance. Along the way, this genre was described, notated, catalogued, studied, and arranged by individuals from various ideological perspectives, which led to the following questions and debates: 1. Can African Americans produce beautiful music? 2. Why do African Americans sing? 3. Are African Americans content to await freedom in Heaven? 4. Are the Spirituals original compositions or imitations of European music? 5. Are the Spirituals a source of dignity or shame? 6. What can contemporary society learn from the message of the Spirituals? 7. How should the Spirituals be performed? The debates that most directly affected the canon of Spirituals are the final three questions, which originated among African Americans after emancipation and were especially influential at freedmen schools in the South, where the tradition of singing Spirituals as concert music was established.