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 https://www.calvinearl.com