African American Spirituals
How They Began (1800's/19th Century)
Secretly gave directions for the Underground Railroad.
Spirituals and the Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad helped slaves to run to the free country. Slaves embedded secret messages in their spirituals giving directions to freedom. They implemented this in several ways; first, they had to walk at night, using hand lights and moonlight. When needed, they walked (“waded”) in water, so that dogs could not smell their tracks. Second, they jumped into chariots, where they could hide and ride away. These chariots stopped at some “stations”, but this word could mean any place where slaves had to go for being taken in charge.
~So, spirituals like “Wade in the Water”, “The Gospel Train” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” directly refer to the Underground Railroad.
-strong steady beat
-depending on the style, some are slow and deliberate, others are driving and pulsating, and others possess the beat of celebration and elation.
-call and response
-between two groups
-between soloist and a group
-creating on the spot
-easy repetitive melodies
-allowed easy access to improvisation
Participation and Meaning
-large community involvement
-contained profound traits of spirituality and faith