Calvin Earl
I Travel The Back Roads Of America In Search Of The Elements Of Peace In Our Musical Heritage & History.


posted in: Blog, Spirituals 2

‘Questions about the spirituals’ is the newest addition to my blog on the history of the spirituals. Here is the first question:

What did you learn about yourself from the African American Spiritual culture?

Great question. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share with you my love for the spirituals and their history.

Firstly, what I have learned is the gift of music created from within the human soul can enhance, change and transform the life of the listener. Music heals, creates a space for joy and fulfillment and has the ability to transform and transcend any situation in the listeners ear even in the midst of human suffering and pain. In the case of spirituals these amazing songs allowed the slaves to be heard during a time when they were not allowed to have a voice. Their secret communications within these songs not only changed the course of history, thankfully it preserved their oral history, healed their pain, and paid forward to their children the idea that fortitude, courage and resilience will ultimately give them their God given human right of freedom that belongs to all God’s children.

Secondly, what I have been given from the music of my ancestors, is an overwhelming sense of pride in all the slaves accomplishments both in music and otherwise all in spite of the fact, to this day their contributions in building a new nation or the gift of an original music they gave to the world are not acknowledged or are still under-acknowledged. Never the less I am a very fortunate man to have been born into such a rich ancestral lineage.

Thirdly, the spirituals taught me to never give up, when someone tells you, you can’t do something, I don’t accept that outcome, and instead I go within and listen to my heart. For me, music and the spirituals have been a way I go within to connect with my soul/true self.

As an example, when I was a young boy, I am the baby of 9, my family was extremely poor and many times we went without food to eat and we moved frequently because my parents couldn’t afford to pay the rent. The minute I played a spiritual on my guitar my hunger pains and the fear of not knowing if we might move in the dark of night again went away. I felt secure within myself when I could play the music or hear it. The stigma and fear of growing up poor seemed to disappear. So I played, and played and played music to comfort my fears. Each time the spirituals made me feel whole again.

As an adult, playing music keeps me grounded, it keeps me in touch with who I am and where I came from. The music teaches me to be grateful every moment of every day.

Do you have a question for me? I’d love to hear from you.


African American spirituals in the 21st century are dependent upon all of us to keep their sound alive. The deep roots of our American oral history & original music invite you to connect with others to honor the gifts from our ancestors by sharing Our Stories, Our History and Our Music with the world. Knowledge is power. By sharing this vibrant rich music & the oral history of our American roots with the world we can overcome the obstacles that for years have kept this information underground.

You see, after slavery ended our slave brothers and sisters wanted to forget everything that reminded them of slavery and that included their spirituals. We can all understand why. But by giving up the spirituals they had created during slavery to find inner strength, safety, courage and that connection to the power that created us all, now the freed slaves, and every generation after that would succumb to those external voices that would have us believe the thoughts, if you are a descendant of the people who were labeled with the word slave you aren’t good enough, you aren’t smart enough, and you are less than perfect. The truth is, we are all people in spite of any label we have been given. It is how we perceive ourselves that is the measure of the man. It is deeply concerning that the original intention & sound of the spirituals will be lost forever, just like the 6000+ fragments of these songs housed in the Library of Congress that will never be heard in their entirety if we don’t join together and tell our story.

Thankfully in 2007 the US Congress unanimously passed Twin Resolutions to honor our American slave brothers and sisters for their contributions to our nation with our deepest gratitude and respect and recognize the African American Spirituals as a National Treasure. Join the social community, to share the gifts of your ancestors, and the spirituals your grandmother used to sing to you with all of us. Stop by my website and share your stories, I’d love to hear from you! Watch the video to see my own journey and what it took to secure the spirituals as an American national treasure in 2007.


In historical context, the spirituals transcended and survived societies one sided reflection of history in a time period that would not allow the slaves who created the spirituals to have a voice. Therefore the essence and secret intent of the spirituals were hidden in plain view in order to preserve and document the history of the slaves existence in America. We all have the need to feel valued and know that at the very least our collective story will remain for future generations to study. The slaves were no different, they just couldn’t tell their story out right in their life time for the world to see. They were depending on each other orally to keep their history alive for future generations. Although we don’t know the individual names of the slaves who created these beautiful spiritual songs, the spirituals represent one of the deepest raw expressions of the human spirit ever created on American soil or the world for that matter. What is so important about preserving the spirituals is not only what these songs did for our nation but also recognizing the enormous contributions the slaves in America made to ensure the birth of our nation. We must never forget the strength and courage of our slaves brothers and sisters who actually survived the atrocities and dehumanization of slavery. And once free were faced with a new set of unjust American laws meant to continue to dehumanize a people for the color of their skin. As survivors, unfazed and unbroken they took the fight for justice forward.

Many American heroes have expressed the value and importance of the old spirituals and what the songs meant to them. In his book, Why We Can’t Wait. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. stated “An important part of the mass meetings was the freedom songs. In a sense the freedom songs are the soul of the movement. They are more than just incantations of clever phrases designed to invigorate a campaign; they are as old as the history of the Negro in America. They are adaptations of the song the slaves sang— the sorrow songs, the shouts for joy, the battle hymns and the anthems of our movement. I have heard people talk of their beat and rhythm, but we in the movement are as inspired by their words. “Woke Up This Morning with My Mind Stayed on Freedom” is a sentence that needs no music to make its point. We sing the freedom songs today for the same reason the slaves sang them, because we too are in bondage and the songs add hope to our determination that “ We shall overcome, black and white together, We shall overcome someday.”

The famous musician, composer, & music producer Quincy Jones stated, “A lot of history is in the words, and some words don’t mean what you think. The true history of Blacks is not in the history books but in our music”. For additional information visit


Are we forgetting and leaving out some of the sacred voices of all our ancestors? When you don’t know your history, you don’t know your ancestors fortitude, or their inspiring determination to get right back up when they failed, or their triumphs, or their powerful spirit that succeeded in overcoming the impossible in a flat world of boundaries and limitations. If we don’t know where we came from how can you possibly know who you are or where you are going? The intention of our nation as a democracy was for all people in our nation to live free, and have the right to pursue “those truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.

The real truth is, from the beginning of this “great experiment” just staying alive, finding fresh water to drink, food to eat, shelter from the elements, and a spirit so strong to build a new nation it took an immeasurable amount of determination, courage and working together to accomplish their goals. All our ancestors together endured unspeakable hardships, no matter how they got here willingly or by force. These ordinary folks worked hard, and sacrificed much to build this nation and when greed and corruption set in, they set out to correct the greed of a few and abolish the evil institution of slavery that threatened the very foundation of the values this nation was built on. All our ancestors gave us our fundamental God given freedoms as human beings including our slave brothers and sisters, the abolitionists, the founding fathers, pilgrims, the Revolutionary War patriots, the Union Army soldiers, and yes even the Confederate soldiers who fought but lost a lifestyle of values that served only a few citizens not the values we set forth as a new nation.

Our ancestors built a nation where we value the ideals that no human beings are less or more than another, because we believe each person’s creative and inventive ideas and contribution will make the world a better place for all of us. Regardless of whether the immigrants who came to America willingly or by force they all gave their blood, sweat and tears to build a nation for, of and by the people. The American story is not a black story or a white story, it is a ‘WE THE PEOPLE’ story. They all built a country together because their lives depended on it. I don’t know about you but I believe today we have a lot more work to do. Slavery has turned into racism, not freedom’s song. There is no reason for any of us to be slaves to corporate greed and fear mongering that would choose to divide us as a nation and make the world unfit to live in. We all belong to one race: THE HUMAN RACE. We are better together as a united nation, knowing this country belongs to all of us and it is our diversity that gives us pride, strength and an innovative edge to breakdown the boundaries that challenge us today. We must honor all of our ancestors, not just some. We are following in the footsteps of extraordinary human beings who took a bold and courageous idea and chose to believe in the kindness and loving nature of the human spirit and that our Creators unalienable Rights belong to all of us together as Americans.

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