“We have this wonderful store of folk music-the melodies of an enslaved people, who poured out their longings, their grief and their aspiration in the one great, universal language. But this store will be of no value unless we utilize it … unless our musical architects take the rough timber of Negro themes and fashion from it music, which will prove that we, too, have national feelings and characteristics”. R. N. Dett (1918)

Airdates for The Spirituals

A musical art form, the American Spiritual, was born out of the folk songs of slaves. Melodies of backbreaking work were hummed, sung, and passed on throughout the Deep South over fields of cotton, greens, cowpeas, yams, rice, peanuts, and okra. Wherever a slave was imprisoned, the sorrow songs were used to console. With defiance, sorrow, and anger, the songs traveled, after being hummed in to the ear of the next arranger.

Few of these spiritual treasure songs have survived. With a great sadness, we lament the songs that have been lost forever. Songs with words and passion as vital as: Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Give me Jesus, and Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child. Just a small portion of the original songbook has survived and we must nurture, teach, sing, and watch over the spirituals that have remained.

The power of these songs lies in their ability to touch hearts whenever they are heard. The spirituals have survived generations and continue to inspire all over the world, from South Africa to the Middle East. We Shall Overcome is heard while schoolteachers demand better wages in Oaxaca, México. Wherever there is a struggle against social injustice, there is a spiritual to motivate, a freedom song, an anthem of the human spirit.

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