How Negro Spirituals Carried Powerful Messages Within Its Lyrics

crowd gathered together
Alyssa Guzik
September 6, 2023

Spirituals have inspired everything from gospel to rock n' roll. They serve as a rich and invaluable form of oral Black history going back to our African roots.

Oral storytelling has a rich history in Western Africa. From cultural practices and generational wisdom, our people have passed down knowledge for hundreds of years. It's this tradition that gave our enslaved ancestors hope and a means of communication.

Many spirituals sung in fields recalled stories from home that were passed from generation to generation. But others were how eventual liberation information was shared.

Songs like "Wade In The Water," "Steal Away," and "Follow The Drinkin' Gourd" were melodic. However, they held hidden messages about escape. As enslaved people moved between plantations, the songs gave instructions about hiding in waterways and following the big dipper to freedom.

The power of these songs lies in their ability to convey messages of resilience, resistance, and unity. By sharing stories through music, spirituals have played a crucial role in shaping Black history. We must never lose our ability to tell our stories and histories, be it by song or any other art form.

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