Historical info on the Spirituals

Black sacred music finds its roots in the ceremony, celebration, and mysticism of Mother Africa. It traversed the Atlantic Ocean in the hulls of slave ships through the middle passage, and was recreated as liberation songs, field hollers, work songs, shout songs, and spirituals by the slaves as they toiled under the master’s whip. The songs served as solace and source of survival amidst the ravages of slavery, as well as the social and spiritual voice of liberation, a prophetic proclamation in the face of oppression. The music bore witness of the providential care of the Almighty God of the universe who fostered a Divine kinship with oppressed people.


Tragically the Spirituals are no longer an integral facet of worship in many African American church traditions. There are sundry explanations for this trend. It is a hopeful phenomenon, however, that other worship traditions and cultures such as India, Asia, Latin America, and various American Christian denominations have embraced this historic American sacred genre. It is my prayerful hope that presentations and projects like “A Meditation on the Spirituals” will inspire, inform, and ignite a resurrection, a resurgence, of these spiritual sonnets spawned in the souls of slaves and passed down intergenerationally through the oral tradition and into the global community. The liberation, justice, and Divine providence inherent in the spirituals are still relevant for our times.