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Article expansion[edit]

This article could be expanded:

  • African roots of the musical form (call and response, blue notes, etc.)
  • Role of the Jubilee Singers in spreading spirituals internationally, and their reception by the public. Importance of the music in keeping Fisk University afloat.
  • Early recordings.
  • Popularization of spirituals by Mahalia Jackson and Leontyne Price.
  • Spiritual form as precursor to gospel. deeceevoice 12:43, 9 May 2005 (UTC)
Agree, and more details about choral arrangements by such composers as Moses Hogan could be added. I suggest changing the heading of the second section from "Evolution of..." to "Choral arrangements of...".
Also, the definition line should refer to black American slaves, not African-Americans in general. —Wahoofive (talk) 17:17, 14 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I really need to find a certain spiritual song, but I am not sure of the lyrics; it has one person singing (almost a cappella) and other people 'answering' him, and part of the lyrics are something like:

Oh help me Lord (help me Lord) Cause I'm in need (I'm in need)

it was part of a rap song recently, but I don't know the name of that, either. Any help would be...ummm...helpful. Yes, I have tried Google. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

The rapper K-os has a spiritual as a component to the song "Valhalla" but I doubt that's who you mean. His song does not have that lyric. He has two albums which I have not heard, which could have that song. Good luck.

I need the lyrics to the spiritual Come and See! I'm performing an organ piece by that name, which lists the composer as "Spiritual." BUT I cannot find words anywhere. I've searched all I know to search. 01:52, 30 July 2006 (UTC)

Isn't there too much historical background in this article? 02:32, 19 November 2006 (UTC)

What do you mean? Too much background for a musical genre? Or too much background for a historical phenomenon? Music like this is very particularly understood as tied to historical background, so separating it is a grave injustice to the genre.

This article might need to be either retitled or needs to have more broad info that the title suggests Dr.khangirl 18:04, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Not more than a month ago, this article referred to the most "authentic" spirituals deriving from "the black keys" or as someone above may have been referring to, "blue notes" (is that what you meant i.e. black keys = black keys of the piano ...?). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:01, 13 January 2008 (UTC)

Oops. It seems these comments still persist and have always been located int he "Samples" section... not that they belonge dthere... peace out.

As a musician, I will never understand how it is possible to talk about music without some notation examples. That said, I would really appreciate if someone with that knowledge could add a section about the basic rhythms of that music and their historical evolution. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:23, 16 December 2019 (UTC)

when did spirituals start?[edit]

The spirituals that we know today, are they all from the 19th century or later? Jonathan Tweet 02:57, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

No one wrote any spirituals down until after 1865 -- they were an exclusively oral tradition before that -- so there's no certainty of how early they started. Some analysts claim to have found elements of African music in them, which slaves might have brought over with them. —Wahoofive (talk) 06:55, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

What about secret codes?[edit]

Out of curiosity, why aren't the African secret codes mentioned in this article? During the time of the underground railroad, slaves that wanted to escape to the North used these "spirituals" to give directions and advice to other slaves. "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" could be changed into one of these easily (I was taught this in college) with inferences to direction, when the chariot was going to come, where it was going, and what time to meet in order to jump on it and head for the North. Am I the only one who was taught that?

I think most of the "secret codes" people have attributed to spirituals are mostly projection and wishful thinking. I don't think there's any solid evidence that these songs were used in this way. While there's no reason we can't mention such legends in Wikipedia (as long as they're indicated that way), I don't think it's essential. unsigned comment by User:Tarkaan
Furthermore, they are mentioned. You didn't read the article completely. —Wahoofive (talk) 20:55, 1 April 2007 (UTC)

I do not agree with that at all. It’s not like people wrote down the meanings of their songs; if there were a coded message on escape from slavery, the last thing they would want to do would be to record them and risk being discovered. Indeed, it was forbidden by law to teach slaves to read and write! There is no “wishful thinking” here— absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Rambam rashi (talk) 23:28, 24 April 2012 (UTC)

OK, but of course in a Wiki article, both sides of a controversy must be presented, and the implication that coded messages are a figment of modern imagination is sourced in the article from a WP:RS, and that must stay in the article. Sensei48 (talk) 08:18, 25 April 2012 (UTC)

I was taught about these secret codes in school, i'm not sure if they are true, but in my university studies of Australian/Pacific Islander History (and particularly in regards to slavery) we were taught that primary sources are a very western concept since normally only those in power have the ability to keep/define records. Given the circumstances (secrecy, oppression) the lack of primary records should not be accepted as concrete proof this was not true, on the other hand verbal accounts passed down to the ancestors of these slaves should settle this matter one way or the other. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:03, 8 October 2010 (UTC)

The section on the topic of coded messages has had added to it several poor-quality sources that are (falsely, I believe) identified as "scholarship" in support of the claim of coded messages: 1. - This source, "Coded Slave Songs," has a non-functioning link. I remember it from years ago; it appears to be a personal blog and cited as its only source a children's book by Jeanette Winter. 2. -- This source, "," is simply clickbait and a gateway to It is not a scholarly source (no clear and credentialed author, no citations to support its claims, etc.). 3. -- "“Follow the Drinking Gourd”—African American Spiritual" is a resource for elementary school teachers that repeats claims but offers no support. Scholarship is general understood as "serious formal study or research of a subject" (Merriam-Webster). "Serious formal study or research" includes locating, evaluating, incorporating, and citing sources. Not everything we find online is "scholarship." Jk180 (talk) 17:40, 17 December 2016 (UTC)

American European ?[edit]

I think the introductory language is a little confusing. Is the article about Spirituals in all Eurpopean colonies in the Americas or onlyc those colonies that ultimately became part of what is now the USA ? Slavery ended in different parts of the Americas over a long period. I think it is possible that the article is really about spirituals in the ante-bellum Southern United States =. That would be the implication of using the 13th amendment as an end point.

I don't know how to fix this but there is a clear problem. In the introduction we seem to be talking about the Americas (i.e. European colonies), but I think 1619 would be the date for English colonies, but not Spanish, Portugese or French. or Danish. Clearly the ending date is restricted to some of the states of the United States (most of which were part of the CSA )The content seems to be limited to the United States.

I don't know how to fix this. The easiest thing at this point might be to make it clear that we are discussin a much more restricted period and place. Conceivably something equivalent to spirituals was happening in Brazil or maybe not.

Hope that others can weigh in on this. It's a very important topic.

Peter Reilly (talk) 16:58, 27 December 2007 (UTC)

Very good point. I never thought about 'spirituals' an anything outside the U.S. But surely the phenomenon was not limited to the U.S. any more than slavery was. How to address this?.. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:57, 13 January 2008 (UTC)

While of course, songs with spiritual lyrics are common worldwide, the term "spiritual" in this context refers to a very specific genre of music. If there is something relevant to say about something called "spirituals" in Brazil or wherever, then there should be a separate article on that topic. Any hypothetical Brazilian genre called "spirituals" does not necessarily have anything to do with "spirituals" in the sense meant in this article. Tuf-Kat (talk) 01:15, 26 March 2008 (UTC)


My suggestion is not to expand the article to cover other regions and time, but rather to mske it clear that what is being discussed is somehwat restricted in time and place. It would also be good to figure out some better lanuage. I really hate "de-Africanize the captive Black workforce" but don't have a ready substitute. Also "captive Africans" is probably not an apt description of someone who's parents and grandparents were born in Virginia. Referring to people as a "labor force" besides being possibly dehumanizing isn't even that accurate from the purported viewpoint of the master class.

Peter Reilly (talk) 23:43, 6 April 2008 (UTC)

NEGRO Spirituals[edit]

It’s a shame that this page, its main and related pages, except Mr. Reilly, are so afraid of calling a Negro Spiritual a Negro Spiritual out of some misguided sense of political correctness. Sheer stupidity. Call things what they are. There are no bad words, only people with bad intentions expressed verbally. Jimeffindandy (talk) 02:15, 20 November 2017 (UTC)

I second this opinion as well. It is sheer nonsense to inject and replace "negro" with African-American. Negro is NOT the 'n-word' it is the Spanish word for black. Besides, these spirituals were not just sung by African-American slaves; many Africans slaves in Jamaica, Haiti, and other nations sang hem too. The commonality in the music is that they were African in nature, yet not specifically limited to America.
While I support the inclusion of the word "negro", I'm not aware that it's true or even possible that slaves in other countries sang spirituals (Haitians weren't even speaking English). They have their own genres of slave songs. natemup (talk) 12:29, 15 July 2021 (UTC)

"Code"Section removed.[edit]

The entire code section has been removed. It was based entirely on one guy's blog, exhorting the 'yes they were codes' meme with no ground to stand on. At the end was a one sentence 'no, not true', grudgingly written, but traced to a published researcher who actually counts as WP:RS, where the blog does not. As such, it fails WP:WEIGHT in such a way that there's no point in restoring any of it, since it's just not true. ThuranX (talk) 15:44, 26 August 2008 (UTC)

Good. Although there are undoubtedly published sources (more reliable than a blog) which discuss the codes, the evidence for them seems pretty nonexistent, more like backwards projection, so I'm glad it's gone. —Wahoofive (talk) 02:03, 29 August 2008 (UTC)

I would like to see the code section restored and plan to make some edits to do just that. There are widespread claims of coded messages. This entry should challenge myths, not simply refuse to mention them. Jk180 (talk) 20:09, 2 September 2008 (UTC)jk180

While myths can be entertaining and make us feel good about ourselves, in a reference source such as Wikipedia they need to be challenged. Ignoring them isn't enough, particularly if they are very popular and widely accepted as fact. I've restored a brief section on codes that is supported by two researched sources. Jk180 (talk) 16:23, 17 September 2008 (UTC)jk180

An important consideration, apparently absent here, is that of Wiki WP:CONTROVERSY, which requires that in the event of a disagreement on a point such as whether or not codes existed, both sides need to be presented equally and dispassionately. Hence, a major problem exists with the last sentence of this section -
These claims, as popular as they are, do not hold up to reasoned and informed inquiry; for example, the sources provide no firsthand evidence of the use of coded songs or distort the firsthand accounts that are available (e.g. Frederick Douglass) in order to support their claims.[10] [11]
- because a)it is dismissive ("reasoned and informed inquiry"? - classic POV), b)trying to create a general point from a statement that starts "for example," violating WP:OR, and c) basing the point on a single published source on one song (note 10) and an internet source which has not yet listed its own sources and which presents a considerable amount of evidence to the contrary of this assertion (note 11). I am therefore re-writing the sentence to more NPOV while leaving in the references. Sensei48 (talk) 02:22, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
This whole article needs to be sourced more effectively, not simply the code section. There are virtually no references here for an absolute host of POV or OR statements in each section. Consistency of perspective would help as well - the section immediately preceding the "code section" about biblical references alludes to coding, though it simply does not employ that term - and a healthy dose of logic wouldn't hurt either - the lack of primary sources for nearly any topic related to spirituals results from the self-evident point of the illiteracy of the slaves who composed the songs but were unable to write them down or provide a neat little paper trail regarding their meanings. Much needs to be done here.Sensei48 (talk) 05:13, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
And finally for today - I would hardly call the Spirituals Project at the Center For Teaching and Learning at the University of Denver here [1] either a blog or an unreliable source - the articles in virtually every category on this site are heavily and academically annotated, and they tend toward the acceptance of the existence of codes. At the very least, this confirms the existence of controversy and is a far cry from the accusation that there exists no "reasoned and informed inquiry" on the topic.Sensei48 (talk) 06:47, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
I understand Sensei48's point about how Wikipedia seeks to handle controversial topics, but I don't see the claim of coded messages in slave songs as part of a real controversy that requires equal and neutral discussion of all sides. It seems to me to be, in Clarence E. Walker's terms, a "therapeutic mythology" -- and a widely spread one, at that. The section certainly can be improved and expanded, but solid sources need to be used. I reviewed all of the Spirituals Project at the Center For Teaching and Learning at the University of Denver [2] -- -- and did not find any supported references for the coded message thesis. The closest I found was a simple assertion in one sentence (with no supporting citations) that the songs "also reflected deep longings for freedom, often masked in the form of secret codes or messages imbedded in the lyrics of the songs" ( Repeating a claim does not make it true. Truth (or as close to truth as we can get) is arrived through reasoned and informed inquiry. Jk180 (talk) 15:42, 31 March 2009 (UTC)

These are all of course excellent points, and the last two sentences of Jk's resonate positively with me. "Repeating a claim does not make it true" - absolutely. I don't claim to know enough about the topic to make a definitive point - except to say that in academic circles (and conceivably for broad-sense political terms), the focus of reasoned inquiry, there is a dispute, however ill-informed one or the other side may be. I'd compare this to something in my own field - the "alternative authorship" theories for Shakespeare's plays - not a shred of documentary evidence exists to suggest that ol' Will of Stratford was not the author - it's all speculation and inference based IMHO on classist elitism - but however ill-informed or ill-intended, one can't deny that a controversy exists. That's why I like the pithy, simplified, straightforward wording of the current code section (and also I'm sure because I rewrote it) - it informs the reader of the major ideas of both sides and sources them and just leaves it there.

On a personal note - I learned "Follow The Drinking Gourd" in the mid-1950s from a Weavers album, which of course (Lee Hays and all) identified it as a code song. Some time in the 70s, I was doing an academic research project and stumbled upon a 1920s vintage book that included "Gourd" and identified it as what we're calling a code song here. That doesn't prove a thing - but I reiterate my point above that the lack of documentary evidence for almost any topic regarding slavery results from the enforced illiteracy of virtually all the slaves. So - to delete the code section because code proponents' standards of academic inquiry don't match what we might insist upon is hard to justify as NPOV. There are academics who propound the existence of codes; they have published; they work at respected institutions. To ignore them in the article is to my way of thinking a declaration that we at Wikipedia have established as truth a point that is still debated in academia, however much we may believe that one side is groundless. Regards, Sensei48 (talk) 06:28, 1 April 2009 (UTC)

ps: I just checked - Wiki has an entire,long, sourced article about the Shakespeare authorship question - with the "lede" identifying the theory as speculative and having no traction in academic circles. If this little idea merits an article - it seems to me that some brief reference to the code allegations is appropriate here - without drawing conclusions relative to its merits, as the authorship article does. Sensei48 (talk) 06:33, 1 April 2009 (UTC)

My recent edits were reversed by Sensei48. I don't wish to start an edit war, but I am absolutely certain that I am correct in stating that three sources identified as "scholarship" are not scholarship. Merriam-Webster defines scholarship as "serious formal study or research." None of these three sources show signs of formal study; they don't cite their sources and only repeat claims without examining them. 1. - This source, "Coded Slave Songs," has a non-functioning link. I remember it from years ago; it appears to be a personal blog and cited as its only source a children's book by Jeanette Winter. 2. -- This source, "," is simply clickbait and a gateway to It is not a scholarly source (no clear and credentialed author, no citations to support its claims, etc.). 3. -- "“Follow the Drinking Gourd”—African American Spiritual" is a resource for elementary school teachers that repeats claims but offers no support. These three sources are most certainly not reliable and scholarly. Sensei48 writes elsewhere that the History Channel is not a good source because it doesn't support its claims and because "entertainment is not the same thing as scholarship: "Nowhere in it is there anything like HC, whose shows include Swamp People, Ax Men, American Pickers, and other such diversions. Entertainment is not the same as scholarship, and the other editors of the Memorial Day article have taken the trouble to find actual sources." The three sources I have singled out are no better than a program on The History Channel. Jk180 (talk) 17:50, 18 December 2016 (UTC)

Hello JK - My rv is not based on a defense of the clearly non-scholarly sources that you point out. It is due to the sweeping nature of your edit, one that suggests that any discussion of the possibility of codes and so on exists only outside of the Academy. Douglass, Barker, and Brown are certainly RS, and all are clear and emphatic about alternative meanings. My suggestion in the edit summary of the last rv is that bad sources be tagged as such with the insistence that better ones be found. But the over-generalization that only non-scholarly sources assert the existence of codes is refuted in the quotations already present in the text. Perhaps a re-phrasing of the opening sentence of the section is possible, but to assert that two respected African American members of the Academy and an historical giant, former slave, and one of the great writers in U.S. history are "popular" and "non-scholarly" is simply not accurate. Regards, Sensei48 (talk) 22:45, 18 December 2016 (UTC)
Thanks for this comment, Sensei48. My revisions were not sweeping. My revisions addressed only the opening section, which begins with the claim that "scholarship" exists to support the claim of coded messages and then gives as evidence of that scholarship three very non-scholarly sources: "Coded Slave Songs,", and "“Follow the Drinking Gourd”—African American Spiritual" (at In contrast to those three poor sources, Douglass, Barker, and Brown are very good sources, and I am not challenging them and or characterizing them as "popular, non-scholarly." Douglass, Barker, and Brown do not make simplistic claims that coded messages were literally used as road maps by escaping slaves; instead, they provide more sophisticated discussions of multiple layers of meaning available in any one given song. That second set of sources is introduced by a statement of contrast that is very good and that did not come from me: "However, there is a firmer consensus that..." Jk180 (talk) 20:43, 19 December 2016 (UTC)

Minor Problems[edit]

I don't have a good suggestion for how to fix this, but I hope someone else may :

Religious significance Negro spirituals were primarily expressions of religious faith. They may also have served as socio-political protests veiled as assimilation to white American culture. They were originated by enslaved African-Americans in the United States. Slavery was introduced to the British colonies in the early seventeenth century, and enslaved people largely replaced indentured servants as an economic labor force during the 17th century. These people would remain in bondage for the entire 18th century and much of the 19th century. Most were not fully emancipated until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

1. Did spirituals arise before or after 1776 (or arguably 1789) ? Before that there was not a United States (or better United States of America) ? 2. No suggestion but is the term African-American really good historically i.e. - is the first generation American ? Arguably white people did not think of themselves as Americans till the mid eighteenth century ? You could go on and on about this 3. "These people" does not work really well. Grammatically it seems to refer to the generation in the 17th century that replaced indentured servants. Of course none of them had anything to do with the thirteenth amendment. 4. "The British colonies" is also somewhat problematical since we are only talking about some British colonies and some regions Florida for example which never were British colonies.

Basically the article confuses historical entities and concepts with geographical regions. I think you have to know a bit about what we might call "American History" and have that as a frame of reference for the article to be unambiguous as to what it is talking about.

Also rather than stating without reference that nothing similar went on in the Caribean or South America, it is more accurate to say that the article is not about what might or might not have happened in those places. I'm clueless about the question. It is very challenging to have any proof of a negative, but before we say it didn't happen somewhere we should want a credible source that has apparently looked at all available literature and made that conclusion. If a Wikipedia contributor read all the available literature and didn't find anything, that would constitute research.

I'm not making any changes, because the ariticle works OK if you come to it with the needed frame of reference and I might somehow compound the problems. Nonetheless, I hope there is someone more skilled than I am who can come up with something.

Peter Reilly (talk) 19:33, 9 January 2009 (UTC)


I see that the statement about not happening in other regions is sourced. I would still be inclined to make the statement conditional.

Peter Reilly (talk) 19:39, 9 January 2009 (UTC)

I'm going to go ahead and openly accuse whoever wrote the "Replacement with Christianity" section of pushing their hideously transparent christian agenda through retconning that section. It was mostly opinion and speculation, and it was all outsourced. Why don't need to read how you imagine those slaves felt. -Kei$hi

Martin Luther King said in 1967 " Deep in our history of struggle for freedom Canada was the North Star. The Negro slave, denied education, de-humanized, imprisoned on cruel plantations, knew that far to the north a land existed where a fugitive slave, if he survived the horrors of the journey, could find freedom. The legendary underground railroad started in the south and ended in Canada. The freedom road links us together. Our spirituals, now so widely admired around the world, were often codes. We sang of 'heaven' that awaited us, and the slave masters listened in innocence, not realizing that we were not speaking of the hereafter. Heaven was the word for Canada and the Negro sang of the hope that his escape on the underground railroad would carry him there. One of our spirituals, 'Follow the Drinking Gourd', in its disguised lyrics contained directions for escape. The gourd was the big dipper, and the North Star to which its handle pointed gave the celestial map that directed the flight to the Canadian border" p. 1 of Conscience for Change, published by CBC Learning Systems in 1967

I have just found on Google Books that parts of "My Bondage and my Freedom" F Douglass 1855 are online, and there is on content page a Section “Hymns with double meaning” p203. I am not sure if this is the specific book the websites refer to or whether he mentions more fully coding in songs in his later works. It does occurs to me that he may not have been too specific in any books, written during the period before the abolition of slavery (1865)that songs may contain guidance on escaping.

I suspect it may be worth looking at the writings of Levi Coffin and others associated with the Under Ground Railroad that were published in the 19th century. If I find anything I will post on this discussion page.

Ghostwhisperer II (talk) 13:50, 7 March 2010 (UTC)


Scholars have argued about whether or not spirituals are more sacred or secular in nature. This article does not address this argument. It just asserts that spirituals are completely religious in nature. It also does not really address the secular uses of spirituals. I think that the text for this article should be edited to get rid of any definitive religious implications, and a section should be added about the current arguments about the sacred or secular nature of spirituals. Sdschwar (talk) 14:48, 6 December 2012 (UTC)

Sure would like to see some evidence of these "scholars" who dispute this. The Blues are often described using the term "secular spirituals", and of course there are work songs and the like from the same period (American slavery), but that's not a dispute about the spirituals themselves. —Wahoofive (talk) 03:18, 7 December 2012 (UTC)

In 1939 John Lovell rejected the idea of interpreting spirituals in a purely religious way. He maintained that there are three themes that run through spirituals: the slave's desire for freedom, the slave's desire for justice and revenge; and the strategy by which they expected to gain an eminent future. Slaves, he said, were not focusing on divine redemption, but rather were focusing on resisting while in this world. Slave resistance was mental rather than physical, concerned with earthly rather than heavenly salvation. Miles Mark Fisher in 1953 agreed with Lovell’s earthly interpretation of spirituals. Both Lovell and Fisher saw spirituals as a sort of “call-to arms” for slaves to resist slavery. [1] Sdschwar (talk) 01:15, 12 December 2012 (UTC)

Certainly this point of view - and it is just that - should be a part of the article. However, as with any academic controversy and per Wikipedia policy, it needs to be represented for what it is, a theory, and a minority one at that, as a matter of balance. The current article is in need of more and better sourcing, but to "get rid of any definitive religious implications" given the long and documented history of these songs being used in church services, camp meetings, and the like is overstepping the bounds of scholarship and elevating an interesting theory beyond the scope of its competence. Since the authorship of the overwhelming majority of spirituals is unknown, it is impossible to say authoritatively at a distance of 80 years per Lovell what exactly was the intent of the composers. The literal meaning of the songs and the primary uses to which they have been put are religious. Lovell is offering a formalist interpretation based on textual scholarship and consequent inference. In no way is this definitive, and it cannot be represented here in that way.
FWIW, I subscribe to the theory, largely, and have alluded to it in my own writing. But it remains a theory and needs to be included as such. regards, Sensei48 (talk) 04:33, 13 December 2012 (UTC)
Agree with Sensei. I asked for evidence, and you provided some. This minority view should certainly be included. Maybe somebody who is familiar with Lovell's work should add it. —Wahoofive (talk) 18:27, 13 December 2012 (UTC)


  1. ^ White, John (1983). "Veiled Testimony: Negro Spirituals and the Slave Experience". Journal of American Studies. 17 (2): 256. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)

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Disputed sentence[edit]

They (Spirituals) are a result of the interaction of music and religion of Africa with music and religion of European origin"

This sentence in the article under the "Terminology and Origin" section is not supported by the cited book.DanJazzy (talk) 20:18, 24 January 2018 (UTC)

I have closed the {{edit semi-protected}} tag because this article is not semi-protected. There appears to be an editing dispute over the above statement, so please feel free to continue this discussion. —KuyaBriBriTalk 20:37, 24 January 2018 (UTC)
The source cited is Walter F. Pitts, 1996, Old Ship of Zion: The Afro-Baptist Ritual in the African Diaspora, New York: Oxford University Press, p. 74:

The Negro spiritual, which was crafted by slaves from both African and European musical sources, became the first indigenous religious music in North America besides that of the Native Americans ... Folklorist Lydia Parrish surmises that the Negro spiritual had possible beginnings in Port Royal, South Carolina where the first Anglican SPG missions began proselytizing among the Sea Island slaves, using white spiritual hymns as their tool for conversion (Parrish 1942: 5). In spite of a European influence on the formation of the black spiritual, one must remember that '[W]hatever portion of the spiritual can be proved to be African or American, one fact is incontrovertible: The originators of the Negro spiritual were African in their attitudes toward religion and music' (Lovell 1972: 16).
In order to understand the creation of the spiritual, the student must review the history of European-American Protestant hymnody of England and colonial America.

Here is more from Pitts: "The consensus among scholars of the Negro spiritual is that 'while many of the spirituals are evidently patterned after European tunes, some without apparent distortion, they are all either altered so as to conform, or selected for adoption because they already did conform, to West African musical patterns'." (p. 81)
"Spiritual" in Grove Music Online has this: "Folk spirituals were a hybrid of West African and Anglo-American music and ritual. The ring ritual, common in many West African cultures, was recreated among the US slave population in the early 1700s and practiced widely until the Civil War ... The arranged spirituals of the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University came to define the genre in the second half of the [19th] century."
Thomas Larson, 2002, History and Tradition of Jazz, pp. 20-21, says: "The first independent black church in America, the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.), was organized in 1793 by the Rev. Richard Allen. In 1801, Allen published a hymnal entitled A Collection of Spiritual Songs and Hymns Selected from Various Authors by Richard Allen, African Minister. Although it contained only text and no music, it is likely that Allen's hymns were sung using techniques such as call and response, repetitive phrases, and shouting. This blending of African music tradition with European church music, the spiritual, had been a common practice for many years by this time."
This consensus view is summarized in our article as: "[Spirituals] are a result of the interaction of music and religion from Africa with music and religion of European origin." In this edit summary I asked if you could explain what part of this is not supported by the cited source. You have provided no specifics. Ewulp (talk) 05:28, 25 January 2018 (UTC)

A few points:- 1. Christianity is not a religion of European origin, rather it originates in the Middle East. Which "religion of European origin" influenced development of Spirituals?

2. The cited source is contradictory. On page 74 it says:- "Whatever portion of the Spiritual can be proved to be African or American, one fact is incontrovertible: the originators of the Spiritual were African in their attitudes towards religion and music (Lovel:1972)"

The source goes further to state:

"The singing of religious songs in 17th and 18th Century Protestant churches in North America was abysmal. This poor quality of hymnody resulted from the Anglo-American sentiment..."

It is therefore important as contributors to Wikipedia to carefully analyse the profiles of sources of information. Use of multiple information sources is essential. We should contextualise sources and determine authenticity, credibility, balance and accuracy of the information.--DanJazzy (talk) 21:40, 26 January 2018 (UTC)

In addition, the US Library of Congress documents this:

"In Africa, music had been central to people's lives: Music making permeated important life events and daily activities. However, the white colonists of North America were alarmed by and frowned upon the slaves' African-infused way of worship because they considered it to be idolatrous and wild. As a result, the gatherings were often banned and had to be conducted in a clandestine manner." [3]

This statement contradicts the disputed statement. There was no "interaction" that produced Spiritual music. In fact the European-American colonists went out of their way to suppress and outlaw it.--DanJazzy (talk) 21:52, 26 January 2018 (UTC)

Anglicanism and Methodism originated in England. European church music originated in Europe. The sources are not contradictory. The lines you cite from the US Library of Congress deal with the colonial period; the very next sentences of that article describe the interaction: "The African population in the American colonies had initially been introduced to Christianity in the seventeenth century. Uptake of the religion was relatively slow at first. But the slave population was fascinated by Biblical stories containing parallels to their own lives and created spirituals that retold narratives about Biblical figures like Daniel and Moses. As Africanized Christianity took hold of the slave population, spirituals served as a way to express the community's new faith, as well as its sorrows and hopes." This was an interaction with the religion practiced by Europeans. We say it is religion of European origin because it is the religion white colonists brought with them from Europe.
I suggest inviting a third party to evaluate whether the sources support our article. Ewulp (talk) 00:11, 27 January 2018 (UTC)

1. I'm sorry but the source does not speak of "Anglicanism" and "Methodism"...It speaks of Christianity which is a Middle Eastern religion, not a European one. Daniel and Moses are prophets mentioned in the Bible, Torah and Koran i.e. from the Middle East.

2. Please elaborate on this "European Church Music" that specifically originated from Europe. Any sources to collaborate that claim?

3. Contradiction no. 1: How could the enslaved Africans have been influenced by this "European Church music" when your own source admits it was "abysmal" and of "poor quality"?.

4. Contradiction no. 2: How was there musical interaction between the colonists and slaves when Spirituals were suppressed, banned and had to be performed in secret?--DanJazzy (talk) 04:20, 27 January 2018 (UTC)

1: Pitts p. 74 mentions Anglican missionaries. It's in the excerpt above.
2: what?
3&4: Explained on Pitts p. 76; also here, here, and everywhere else; e.g., see Southern, Eileen. "An Origin for the Negro Spiritual", The Black Scholar, vol. 3, no. 10, 1972, pp. 8–13:

The spiritual differed from the other types [of Afro-American folk music] in following a special line of development, for it was closely associated with the music of the Protestant church. As early as the seventeenth century some white Protestant clergymen took positive measures to Christianize a small minority of the transplanted Africans, teaching them to read the Bible and to sing psalms and hymns. Congregational minister Cotton Mather, for example, organized the Society of Negroes in 1693 and listed as one of its rules that "between the two prayers, a Psalm shall be sung." Missionaries of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (sent out by the Church of England) reported upon the slaves' fondness for singing psalms and hymns, particularly the hymns of Isaac Watts. Up until the last decades of the eighteenth century, blacks worshipped in churches alongside their white masters (although in segregated pews) and, consequently, sang the same psalms and hymns as the white members. Even outside the church, the slaves were encouraged to sing hymns while at work instead of their own folksongs.

Southern continues: "One of the established myths about spirituals is that the songs were born on plantations of the South, invented by the slaves as they labored ... To be sure, southern slaves did sing spirituals. But all evidence suggests that the song type originated in the independent black churches of the North where black congregations, freed from the supervision of white clergymen, could conduct their religious services as they wished ... In some instances, hymns were turned into spiritual songs by the addition of refrains or choruses. Other songs apparently were originally composed as spirituals." Southern provides a number of examples of spirituals fashioned from Protestant hymns of Isaac Watts and others.
Or see Spener, David, 'I Shall Not Be Moved' in the U.S. South: Blacks and Whites, Slavery and Spirituals, where the "primarily interracial" camp meetings that were a feature of the Second Great Awakening are described: "congregants at these mass meetings received sermons from both black and white preachers ... Singing was a central component of the camp meeting, with blacks in attendance playing an especially boisterous role ... the 'noisy' and 'folksy' atmosphere of such revivals gave rise to new songs and styles of singing that challenged the 'antiquated' church hymns of the day." This sounds like musical interaction to me.
I suggest inviting a third party to evaluate whether the sources support our article. Ewulp (talk) 07:54, 27 January 2018 (UTC)

1. I see new sources had been introduced. The original citation by Pitts does not mention any such "interactions" Infact, there are myriad sources (including the Library of Congress which I've cited) that actually demonstrate. with evidence, how the colonialists from Europe were extremely hostile to Spirituals music. This smacks of historical revisionism.

2. "Mentions Anglican missionaries" I'm afraid this is a rather subjective and ambiguous statement. Does Pitts actually prove the disputed statement? --DanJazzy (talk) 18:46, 28 January 2018 (UTC)

I suggest inviting a third party to evaluate whether the sources support our article. Ewulp (talk) 01:09, 29 January 2018 (UTC)
Searchtool-80%.png Response to third opinion request:
  1. The claim about the origins of Christianity, in this context, is purely semantic. The corpus of Christian dogma and culture prior to the colonial period was European, with only distant historical roots in the Middle East. That is what is implied in the disputed sentence, and that is correct.
  2. The various quoted sources support, in the very least, this claim, which I suggest supplant the disputed sentence: Spirituals are the result of interactions between African culture and music and the religious traditions of Europe.

François Robere (talk) 17:04, 31 January 2018 (UTC)

Speaking in tongues[edit]

My understanding is that public speaking in tongues is mostly associated with Pentecostalism and that this is a new denomination that originated around 1900. But the placement in the article makes it seem as if it's one of the cultural traits imported from Africa. Is this intentional? Im not aware of speaking in tongues as a part of music, but it may just be lack of exposure on my part. Thanks, Lollipop (talk) 01:01, 31 October 2018 (UTC)

"a genre of music that is "purely and solely the creation" of generations of African Americans"[edit]

This probably should not be in the lead - it is from a single primary source from 1925, and in the rest of the article there's a bunch of references to western influence in spirituals. --Eldomtom2 (talk) 17:36, 7 April 2021 (UTC)