The Gospel Truth about the Negro Spiritual
Randye Jones, Soprano & Researcher
William Tinker, Piano
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
The Gospel Truth about the Negro Spiritual 2
The Gospel Truth about the Negro Spiritual
By Randye Jones
In a 2003 interview, the author was asked, ―What is the difference between Negro spirituals and
gospel music?‖ It seemed like a simple question, but it was immediately apparent that the
answer was far from simple. First, it is complicated by the fact that both exist due to the deep-
seated need of a people to express their faith in song. Secondly, composers of one style have
used the other for source material, and musicians have often used performance practices of one
when singing or playing the other. Also, the history of one style blends into the other.
The times and environment in which the spiritual was nurtured were starkly different than the
incubator of black gospel music. Gospel music is clearly rooted in the spiritual, and gospel
musicians have certainly drawn on the spiritual for source material. But what is the ―gospel
truth?‖ Are gospel songs simply ―jazzed-up‖ spirituals? This paper proposes to look briefly at
the history and performance practices of each music style and a few of the many musicians who
contributed to their development. Its goal is to seek out the ―gospel truth‖ about what makes
the two styles similar and what makes them different.
The Negro Spiritual: From Cotton Field to Concert Hall
A Brief History
Negro spirituals are songs created by the Africans who were captured and brought to the United
States to be sold into slavery. This stolen race was deprived of their languages, families, and
cultures; yet, their masters could not take away their music.
Over the years, these slaves and their descendents adopted Christianity, the religion of their
masters. They re-shaped it into a deeply personal way of dealing with the oppression of their
enslavement. Their songs, which were to become known as spirituals, reflected the slaves‘
need to express their new faith:
My people told stories, from Genesis to Revelation, with God‘s faithful as the main
characters. They knew about Adam and Eve in the Garden, about Moses and the
Red Sea. They sang of the Hebrew children and Joshua at the battle of Jericho.
They could tell you about Mary, Jesus, God, and the Devil. If you stood around long
enough, you‘d hear a song about the blind man seeing, God troubling the water,
Ezekiel seeing a wheel, Jesus being crucified and raised from the dead. If slaves
couldn‘t read the Bible, they would memorize Biblical stories they heard and translate
them into songs.
The songs were also used to communicate with one another without the knowledge of their
masters. This was particularly the case when a slave was planning to escape bondage and to
seek freedom via the Underground Railroad.
Velma Maia Thomas. No Man Can Hinder Me: The Journey from Slavery to Emancipation
through Song (New York: Crown Publishers, 2001), 14.
The Gospel Truth about the Negro Spiritual 3
Spirituals were created extemporaneously and were passed orally from person to person.
These folksongs were improvised as suited the singers. There is record of approximately 6,000
spirituals or sorrow songs; however, the oral tradition of the slaves‘ ancestors—and the
prohibition against slaves learning to read or write—meant that the actual number of songs is
unknown. Some of the best known spirituals include: ―Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless
Child,‖ ―Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen‖, ―Steal Away,‖ ―Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,‖ ―Go
Down, Moses,‖ ―He‘s Got the Whole World in His Hand,‖ ―Every Time I Feel the Spirit,‖ ―Let Us
Break Bread Together on Our Knees,‖ and ―Wade in the Water.‖
With the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and the conclusion of the American Civil War in
1865, most former slaves distanced themselves from the music of their captivity. The spiritual
seemed destined to be relegated to mention in slave narratives and to a handful of historical
accounts by whites who had attempted to notate the songs they heard. Two of the most
significant of these accounts are found in Thomas Wentworth Higginson‘s Army Life in a Black
Regiment, which recounted the slave songs he heard the black Union soldiers sing, and the
1867 publication, Slave Songs of the United States. In the preface of Slave Songs, compiler
William Francis Allen described the difficulty they had recording the spirituals they heard:
The best that we can do, however, with paper and types, or even with voices, will
convey but a faint shadow of the original. The voices of the colored people have a
peculiar quality that nothing can imitate; and the intonations and delicate variations of
even one singer cannot be reproduced on paper. And I despair of conveying any
notion of the effect of a number singing together, especially in a complicated shout,
like ―I can‘t stay behind, my Lord‖ (No. 8), or ―Turn, sinner, turn O!‖ (No. 48). There is
no singing in parts, as we understand it, and yet no two appear to be singing the
same thing—the leading singer starts the words of each verse, often improvising, and
the others, who ―base‖ him, as it is called, strike in with the refrain, or even join in the
solo, when the words are familiar.
The performance of spirituals was given a rebirth when a group of students from newly founded
Fisk University of Nashville, Tennessee, began to tour in an effort to raise money for the
financially strapped school. The Fisk Jubilee Singers not only carried spirituals to parts of the
United States that had previously never heard Negro folksongs, the musically trained chorus
performed before royalty during their tours of Europe in the 1870‘s. The success of the Fisk
Jubilee Singers encouraged other Black colleges to form touring groups. Professional ―jubilee
singers‖ also toured successfully around the world. Collections of ―plantation songs‖ were
published to meet the public demand.
While studying at the National Conservatory of Music, singer and composer Harry T. Burleigh
came under the tutelage of the Czech composer Antonín Dvořák. Dvořák visited the United
States in 1892 to serve as the new director of the conservatory and to encourage Americans to
develop their own national music. Dvořák learned of the spiritual through his contacts with
Burleigh and later commented that:
William Francis Allen, Charles Pickard Ware, Lucy McKim Garrison, comp., Slave Songs of the
United States (New York, A. Simpson, 1867; reprint, Bedford, MA: Applewood Books, 1995), iv-
The Gospel Truth about the Negro Spiritual 4
. . . inspiration for truly national music might be derived from the Negro melodies
or Indian chants. I was led to take this view partly by the fact that the so-called
plantation songs are indeed the most striking and appealing melodies that have
yet been found on this side of the water, but largely by the observation that this
seems to be recognized, though often unconsciously, by most Americans. . . .
The most potent as well as most beautiful among them, according to my
estimation, are certain of the so-called plantation melodies and slave songs, all of
which are distinguished by unusual and subtle harmonies, the like of which I
have found in no other songs but those of old Scotland and Ireland.
In 1916, Burleigh published the song, ―Deep River,‖ for voice and piano. By that point in his
career, he had written a few vocal and instrumental works based on the plantation melodies he
had learned as a child. However, his setting of "Deep River" is considered to be the first work of
its kind to be written in art song form specifically for performance by a trained singer.
"Deep River" and other spiritual settings became very popular with concert performers and
recording artists, both black and white. It was soon common for recitals to end with a group of
spirituals. Musicians such as Roland Hayes and Marian Anderson made these songs a part of
their repertoires. Paul Robeson is credited as being the first to give a solo vocal recital of all
Negro spirituals and work songs in 1925 at the Greenwich Village Theatre, New York, New
Over the years, composers have published numerous settings of Negro spirituals specifically for
performance on the concert stage, and singers, such as Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman,
Kathleen Battle, and Simon Estes, have also successfully recorded them for commercial
Composers also set spirituals for chorus and organized choral groups on college campuses as
well as professional touring choirs. Hall Johnson started the Hall Johnson Negro Choir in
September 1925 because he wanted "to show how the American Negro slaves--in 250 years of
constant practice, self-developed under pressure but equipped with their inborn sense of rhythm
and drama (plus their new religion)--created, propagated and illuminated an art-form which was,
and still is, unique in the world of music."
His success in the 1930‘s through 1950‘s was joined
over the years by that of Canadian-born Robert Nathaniel Dett, William Levi Dawson, Undine
Smith Moore, Eva Jessye, Wendell Whalum, Jester Hairston, Roland Carter, Andre Thomas,
Moses Hogan, and many other choral composers who used the spiritual for musical source
While Burleigh, Johnson and their contemporaries were actively composing art song and choral
settings of spirituals, it was not until the 1930‘s that a concerted effort was made to preserve this
part of American culture in its original form. Following the lead of Fisk University, Southern
University, and Prairie View State College, the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress
Antonín Dvořák, "Music in America," Harper's 90 (1895): 432.
Hall Johnson, "Notes on the Negro Spiritual," (1965). In Readings in Black American Music,
comp. and ed. Eileen Southern, 2nd ed. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1983), 277.
The Gospel Truth about the Negro Spiritual 5
Administration (WPA) worked with various state programs to record the first-hand recollections
of the survivors of slavery. These slave narratives included stories about the role of music in
their lives and songs delivered by those who had sung these folksongs in that bygone era.
Over the years, the spiritual has given birth to a number of other American music styles,
including Blues, Jazz and gospel. Spirituals played a major role in buoying the spirits of
protesters during the Civil Rights Era of the 1950‘s and 1960‘s. The songs served as a rallying
call to those who were demonstrating against laws and policies that kept African Americans
from having equal rights.
These art songs challenge both the vocalist and the accompanist to display their technical skills
and musicality. More importantly, the songs demand that the musicians tap into the deep well-
spring of emotions that inspired those slaves of ages past. As noted by Hall Johnson:
True enough, this music was transmitted to us through humble channels, but its
source is that of all great art everywhere—the unquenchable, divinely human longing
for a perfect realization of life. It traverses every shade of emotion without spilling
over in any direction. Its most tragic utterances are without pessimism, and its
lightest, brightest moments have nothing to do with frivolity. In its darkest
expressions there is always a hope, and in its gayest measures a constant reminder.
Born out of the heart-cries of a captive people who still did not forget how to laugh,
this music covers an amazing range of mood. Nevertheless, it is always serious
music and should be performed seriously, in the spirit of its original conception.
Whether in a concert performance, joined in congregational singing, or just singing to oneself,
spirituals must be sung with an understanding of what forced such powerful songs to rise up
from the souls of the men and women who created them. The unknown creators of those
American folksongs may no longer be amongst us, but their longing for freedom and their
abiding faith remain to fill our hearts each time we sing these emotionally charged songs.
Soprano Ruby Elzy expressed simply the art of singing spirituals, "the singer who strives to
sing the spirituals without the divine spirit will be like the man who plants pebbles and expects
them to grow into lilies."
Spirituals fall into three basic categories:
Call and response – A ―leader‖ begins a line, which is then followed by a choral
response; often sung to a fast, rhythmic tempo (―Ain‘t That Good News,‖ ―Swing Low,
Sweet Chariot,‖ ―Go Down, Moses‖)
Slow and melodic – Songs with sustained, expressive phrasing, generally slower tempo
(―Deep River,‖ ―Balm in Gilead,‖ ―Calvary‖)
Johnson. Thirty Spirituals: Arranged for Voice and Piano. (New York: G. Schirmer; dist.,
Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard, 1949), .
Ruby Elzy. ―The Spirit of the Spirituals: Religion and Music, a Solution of the Race Problem,‖
Etude 61, no.8 (August, 1943): 495-496.
The Gospel Truth about the Negro Spiritual 6
Fast and rhythmic – Songs that often tell a story in a faster, syncopated rhythm
(―Witness,‖ ―Ev‘ry Time I Feel the Spirit,‖ ―Elijah Rock,‖ ―Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho‖)
The lyrics dealt with characters from the Old Testament (Daniel, Moses, David) who had to
overcome great tribulations and with whom the slaves could easily identify. From the New
Testament, the slaves most closely identified with Jesus Christ, who they knew would help them
―Hold On‖ until they gained their freedom. Although slaves often sang about Heaven, the River
Jordan—and the hidden reference to Underground Railroad destination, the Ohio River—was
regularly a subject of their songs.
Since the rhythm—once established—was key to their songs, the singers would add or delete
syllables in words to make them fit the song. Pioneers of spiritual art songs often chose to use
dialect, the manner slaves pronounced words, in their settings. Some examples are:
Heaven – Heav‘n, Heb‘n, Heb‘m River Jordan – Riber Jerd‘n mourner – mo‘ner
Children – chillun, chil‘n, childun my – ma, m‘ there – dere
for – fer Morning – mornin‘ more – mo‘
the – de religion – ‗ligion going to – gwine, gon-ter
Jubilee – Juberlee and – ‗n‘, an‘ get – git
Early vocal settings reflected the goals of pioneering composers to retain as much of the ―feel‖
of the original spiritual as was possible. Choral settings were ideally performed a cappella, and
solo vocal pieces allowed the use piano accompaniment for support of the singer. They mainly
composed in a steady 2/4 or 4/4 meter.
Over the years, however, compositions have become more tonally and rhythmically complex in
both the vocal line and accompaniment. There is less use of dialect. This much more
structured approach presents more technical challenges to the performers, but it further erodes
their opportunities for expressive interpretation. However, this places greater responsibility
upon the performers to be sensitive to the original intent of the music and to communicate that
intent to the listener.
Gospel Music: “Good News” in the City
A Brief History
The gospel music of the African American had its beginnings during the years following the Civil
War. Many newly freed slaves began seeking a new life away from the rural setting of the
Southern plantation. They sought opportunities for better education and employment to the
north and west.
From a religious standpoint, the freedmen took two very distinct paths. Some formed churches
affiliated with established white denominations (Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc.)
and worshiped using formal, structured liturgies modeled after their white counterparts. They
rejected the Negro spiritual in its original form because the folksongs not only reminded them of
their former conditions, but the songs did not fit their newly formed aesthetic. They chose to
sing hymns by Dr. Isaac Watt, John Wesley and Richard Allen, though the congregations still
sang the hymns with a favor that hinted at their African roots.
The Gospel Truth about the Negro Spiritual 7
Predominately in the South, the second path led poorer, less well-educated African Americans
to form their own Pentecostal or holiness churches. From around 1870 until the turn of the 20
century, hymns began to appear that combined the syncopation, call-and-response, and
improvisation of African American music with the formal structure of the white hymn. These
―gospel hymns‖ addressed the desires of African Americans who wanted songs that more
profoundly expressed their belief in the ―Good News‖ found in the four Gospels of the New
Testament. Best known of the composers of gospel hymns was Charles A. Tindley, a Methodist
minister who wrote such hymns as ―I‘ll Overcome Someday,‖ ―We‘ll Understand It Better By and
By‖ and ―Here Am I, Send Me.‖
Unlike the creators of the spiritual, Tindley and his contemporaries copyrighted and published
their music in collections such as Gospel Pearls and New Songs of Paradise. They also
promoted their works in concerts and events like the National Baptist Convention. Although
some music was performed a cappella, some churches allowed, for the first time, the use of
instruments such as the piano, drums and tambourine. Gospel performing forces during this
period consisted either of male quartets or female gospel choirs.
In the early decades of the 20
century, southern African Americans were in the midst of a
massive migration north, and they carried their music with them. Chicago became the center of
gospel music in the 1920‘s and 1930‘s with the arrival of Thomas A. Dorsey, called the ―Father
of Gospel Music.‖ Dorsey, who had developed a very successful career writing and performing
with blues diva Ma Rainey, introduced blues elements to the sacred music he wrote. He went
virtually from church door to church door, gradually convincing ministers that this ―devil‘s music‖
was suitable for their services. With the help of vocal soloists such as Sallie Martin, Mahalia
Jackson and Roberta Martin, he made recordings of his songs, eventually generating an
international audience for his music. Dorsey composed over 400 songs in his career, including
his most famous song, ―Precious Lord, Take My Hand.‖
Although Dorsey was able to devote his musical output solely to gospel music, many of his
contemporaries continued to maintain secular and sacred professional lives. Among them,
Blues great Blind Lemon Jefferson was also known as Deacon L. J. Bates. The singing
preachers not only recorded gospel ―race records,‖ they visited urban congregations around the
United States, preaching and singing:
In contrast to the Black ―spiritual,‖ whose inception was in the cotton fields and in
the rural setting of the camp meeting where large numbers of Blacks gathered in
the open to listen to itinerant preachers, the gospel song came about in urban
settings. Huge temporary tents erected for revival meetings by touring
evangelists, as well as large tabernacles, were the settings where the early
gospel music flourished.
By the 1950‘s, gospel music had undergone additional changes. It was not unusual to hear
electric organ or guitars, brass and string instruments, and a variety of percussion instruments
accompany choirs that now included male singers. Male quartets began performing with
instrumental accompaniment, and they added one or two members to their groups to allow four-
part harmony under the lead. Keyboardists were expected to display great improvisational skills
and to be able to use a much greater range of chordal options to enhance songs. Prominent
J. Jefferson Cleveland. Songs of Zion. Supplemental Worship 12. (Nashville: Abingdon,
The Gospel Truth about the Negro Spiritual 8
performers included Clara Ward, the Swan Silvertones, the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, and
Wings over Jordan. The Soul Stirrers, led by Sam Cooke, brought in an entirely new audience
to the world of gospel music: teenaged girls who were drawn to Cooke‘s physical attractiveness
and suave singing style.
These performers and many others recorded steadily to meet the growing demand for gospel
music over the radio. Unfortunately, as was the case for African Americans in popular music,
gospel performers were rarely fairly compensated:
The rip-off was manifested in several ways: records producers paid artists for
fewer records than were sold (artists did not see the books), records were
distributed in areas where the artists did not perform and therefore had no
knowledge of the market, the artists were not advised that they themselves were
paying for the recording session and they would receive no money until the cost
of the session had been paid, and the reprehensible act of signing a group as a
tax write-off and investing no money to promote their recordings… singers would
purchase hundreds of recordings at a reduced price from the producer and sell
them during their concert tours. The singers themselves left the stage or pulpit
and moved through the audience selling records.
Gospel grew in prominence in other cities, especially Philadelphia (Clara Ward, The Dixie
Hummingbirds), Detroit (C. L. Franklin, Della Reese), St. Louis, Memphis, Birmingham, and
New York (Sister Rosetta Tharpe). Performers took their music into locations outside the usual
church venues. Mahalia Jackson sang at Carnegie Hall (1950), on the Ed Sullivan Show, and
at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958—Clara Ward and the Ward Singers had performed there
the year before; the Caravans and the Dixie Hummingbirds appeared at the Apollo.
By the 1960‘s, gospel was being performed in nightclubs, and gospel plays had come to
Broadway. Singers like James Cleveland, Shirley Caesar, Aretha Franklin, Inez Andrews, the
Mighty Clouds of Joy, and the Staples Singers reached prominence. However, there was also
a shift towards the popular music of the time that made gospel purists uncomfortable:
But all was not well, for even though gospel was beloved in 1965, there was a
faction within the group that was a decade or more younger than the leaders.
This new generation wished not only for a modern sound in gospel but also more
access to the popular music market. They wanted to drop choir robes and
business suits and don the latest in casual fashions; they wanted to add
synthesizers, drum machines, and other instruments from popular music, and
they wanted a greater association with popular music performers… What once
had been a genuine expression of ecstasy in responding to gospel soon became
vocal and physical clichéd responses to the music. In fact, gospel was bursting
out of the world it had created.
Edwin Hawkins closed out the decade with his release of ―Oh Happy Day,‖ which combined the
elements of gospel with those of Rhythm and Blues. Along with others in this new generation,
Horace Clarence Boyer. The Golden Age of Gospel. Music in American Life. (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 2000), 54.
The Gospel Truth about the Negro Spiritual 9
such as Andrea Crouch, BeBe and CeCe Winans, and Richard Smallwood, he brought a new
generation of listeners to gospel music.
Contemporary gospel has made further shifts over the years. While solo performers and small
ensembles continue to exist, the dominant gospel groups are made up of large choirs with
soloists using amplified sound equipment designed for popular music venues. On college
campuses across the country, students have created their own gospel groups. Churches that
had resisted gospel music for decades finally have acquiesced and started gospel choirs.
Choirs, such as Kirk Franklin‘s, have integrated Hip Hop into their sound.
The popularity of gospel music is showing no signs of waning in the foreseeable future.
Early gospel hymns used the call-and-response of the spiritual, as well as syncopation and
improvisation. The songs tended to be in 2/4 or 4/4 meter and use diatonic harmony:
Most of these early gospel songs have verse-chorus structure or strophic form.
They are based on primary triads and seventh chords with the third and seventh
degrees of the scale often varied to created blue notes. Although appearing
frequently in written form, the gospel song is rarely performed as written. Since
the songs are transmitted aurally, they are classified as ―composed folk songs‖
and are interpreted individually by singers as well as instrumentalists.
By the 1930‘s, performers were far less restrained in their use of harmony, and vocalists and
instrumentalists were much freer with their improvisation. The lead singer took a much more
active role, singing whole verses while the other members of the ensemble repeated words or
phrases behind the leader in harmony. The lead singer added ornaments such as melismas
and glissandos for dramatic effect:
They alternated tone colors, by using falsetto, growls, vibrato, and by switching
the lead between different singers. In addition, the lead singers began to add text
interpolations—improvised personal statements and testimonies in the manner of
gospel soloists and preachers… Sometimes the leader gives a cue for all the
background to ―drop out,‖ and he or she continues indefinitely with a soft
instrumental background. The lead can then ―preach,‖ ―work the audience,‖ or
―shout the audience‖ to elicit response.
Bass singers, who had been added to ensembles in the 1920‘s, were replaced by the bass line
in the piano or with bass guitar by the 1950‘s. Thus, mixed choirs consisted of soprano, alto
and tenor or baritone.
From the 1970‘s onward, soloists began the song in the middle range of their voices then
progressed to the farther ends of their ranges for dramatic effect. While they are vocally
smoother, there is still the tendency towards a great deal of vibrato. With the advent of rap
Joyce Marie Jackson. ―The Changing Nature of Gospel Music.‖ African American Review 29 (Summer
The Gospel Truth about the Negro Spiritual 10
gospel, the lead singer either speaks throughout the song with choral and instrumental
accompaniment or alternates between sung and spoken text.
So, What Is the Gospel Truth?
Musicologist Eileen Southern compared the Negro spiritual and gospel music with the following:
1. Gospel texts are subjective and hortative. The poems generally center on a
single theme, which is stressed through the repetition of phrases. The
subjects are wide ranging, such as conversion, salvation, yearning for
spirituality, etc. Spirituals texts are group-oriented and tend to tell stories
about Biblical events and figures, especially of the four Gospel books of the
Bible and the Old Testament. Its themes and subjects are similar to those of
2. Gospel songs have instrumental accompaniment, which is as ―integral part
of the performance as is the singing, and in like manner equally an
expression of the folk.‖ The spiritual is sung a capella.
3. Gospel has a characteristic rhythmic intensity because of its marked
syncopation and percussive instrumental rhythms.
4. Gospel uses strophic forms, with verses and refrains, and like white gospel,
its songs tend to be sixteen or thirty-two measures in length. Spirituals
typically consist of one strain repeated again and again, as a, a, a, a etc; or
of two strains as in a b patterns.
5. Gospel melody, with its flatted thirds and sevenths, is related to blues; the
spiritual uses ―bent tones‖ only occasionally.
Additionally, spirituals relied mostly on oral transmission to pass the music from person-to-
person or on the transcriptions of others who heard the songs. Gospel music composers, even
in the infancy of the genre, published and recorded their songs. However, it is similar to
spirituals in that most groups learn new songs not from sheet music, but from listening to
recordings or others performing the songs. The progenitors of the spiritual surely had no
thought of marketing or selling their music; in the case of gospel music, Tindley, Dorsey and
their successors made a concerted—and highly successful—effort to spread their musical
message through commercial means. Spirituals flourished in the vacuum of the plantation,
where the influence of other musics was limited, if it existed at all. On the other hand, gospel
music has regularly adopted elements of the secular popular music of the period: Blues, Jazz,
Rhythm and Blues, and most recently, Hip Hop.
Despite these considerable differences, however, the most significant similarity persists. Both
spirituals and gospel music address the need of a people to express their faith in a dynamic,
musical way. Simply put, the ―gospel truth‖ is that whether one wanted to ―Steal Away to Jesus‖
or to ask, ―Precious Lord, Take My Hand,‖ a tormented soul sought and found relief in a risen
Eileen Southern. The Music of Black Americans: A History. 3rd ed. (New York: W.W. Norton,
The Gospel Truth about the Negro Spiritual 11
Selected Bibliography and Discography
Abbington, James, ed. and comp. Readings in African American Church Music and Worship.
Chicago: GIA Publications, 2001.
Abromeit, Kathleen A. An Index to African-American Spirituals for the Solo Voice. Westport, Ct.:
Greenwood Press, 1999.
Allen, William Francis, Charles Pickard Ware, Lucy McKim Garrison, comp. Slave Songs of the
United States. New York, A. Simpson, 1867; reprint, Bedford, MA: Applewood Books,
Boyer, Horace Clarence. The Golden Age of Gospel. Music in American Life. Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 2000.
Caldwell, Hansonia LaVerne. African American Music: A Chronology 1619-1995. Los Angeles:
Ikoro Communications, 1996.
Chenu, Bruno. The Trouble I’ve Seen: The Big Book of Negro Spirituals. Valley Forge: Judson
Cuney-Hare, Maud. Negro Musicians and Their Music. New York: Da Capo Press, 1974.
Darden, Robert. People Get Ready!: A New History of Black Gospel Music. New York:
Continuum International Publishing, 2004.
Du Bois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk. Chicago: A. C. McClurg, 1903; reprint, New York:
Penguin Classics, 1996.
Epstein, Dena J. Sinful Tunes and Spirituals: Black Folk Music to the Civil War. Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 1977.
Floyd, Jr., Samuel A. The Power of Black Music: Interpreting Its History from Africa to the United
States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Higginson, Thomas Wentworth. Army Life in a Black Regiment and Other Writings. Boston:
Fields, Osgood & Co.; reprint, New York: Penguin Books, 1997.
Johnson, J Rosamond, and Lawrence Brown. The Books of American Negro Spirituals:
Including The Book of American Negro Spirituals and The Second Book of Negro
Spirituals, ed. James Weldon Johnson. New York: DaCapo, 1977.
Lawrence-McIntyre, Charshee Charlotte. "The Double Meanings of the Spirituals." Journal of
Black Studies 17 (June 1987): 397-401.
Lovell, Jr., John. Black Song: The Forge and the Flame. New York: Paragon House Publishers,
The Gospel Truth about the Negro Spiritual 12
Maultsby, Portia Katrenia. "Afro-American Religious Music: 1619-1861." Ph.D diss., The
University of Wisconsin, 1974.
Moore, Allan, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Blues and Gospel Music. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Patterson, Lindsay, comp. and ed. International Library of Negro Life and History: The Negro in
Music and Art. New York: Publishers Co., 1967. S.v. ―Spirituals and Neo-Spirituals,‖ by
Zora Neale Hurston.
Reagon, Bernice Johnson. If You Don't Go, Don't Hinder Me: The African American Sacred
Song Tradition. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001.
________, ed. We’ll Understand It Better By and By: Pioneering African American Gospel
Composers. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992.
Reed, Teresa L. The Holy Profane: Religion in Black Popular Music. Lexington: The University
Press of Kentucky, 2003.
Sadie, Stanley, John Tyrrell, eds. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd ed.
New York: Grove, 2001. 29 v.
Songs of Zion. Supplemental Worship 12. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1981), 172.
Southern, Eileen. The Music of Black Americans: A History. 3rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton,
Southern, Eileen, comp. Readings in Black American Music. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton,
Spencer, Jon Michael. Protest & Praise: Sacred Music of Black Religion. Minneapolis: Fortress
Thomas, Velma Maia. No Man Can Hinder Me: the Journey from Slavery to Emancipation
through Song. New York: Crown, 2001.
Turner, Patricia.K Dictionary of Afro-American Performers: 78 RPM and Cylinder Recordings of
Opera, Choral Music and Songs, c. 1900-1949. New York: Garland Publishing, 1990.
Warren, Gwendolin Sims. Ev’ry Time I Feel the Spirit: 101 Best Loved Psalms, Gospel Hymns,
and Spiritual songs of the African American Church. New York: Henry Holt, 1997.
The African American Art Song Alliance. http://www.uni.edu/taylord/alliance.html.
African American Publications. http://www.africanpubs.com.
The Gospel Truth about the Negro Spiritual 13
African American Sheet Music, 1850-1920; Selected from the Collections of Brown University.
Spirituals subject browse; http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-
Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938.
Southern Mosaic: The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip.
Journals and Journal Guides
Black Music Research Bulletin. Chicago: Columbia College Center for Black Music Research,
Black Music Research Journal. Nashville: Institute for Research in Black American Music, Fisk
The Black Perspective in Music. Cambria Heights, New York: Foundation for the Research in
the Afro-American Creative Arts, 1973-1990.
Burleigh, Harry T. The Spirituals of Harry T. Burleigh: High Voice. Melville, NY: Belwin-Mills,
Carter, John. Cantata: for Voice and Piano. New York: Southern Music Pub., 1964.
Corley, Maria Thompson. ―I Want Jesus to Walk with Me.‖ Score (photocopy). 2003.
Dett, R. Nathaniel. ―I‘m Goin‘ To Thank God.‖ Glen Rock, NJ: J. Fischer & Bro., 1940.
Johnson, Hall. The Hall Johnson Collection. New York: Carl Fischer, 2003.
Morris, Robert L. Lyric suite. Dayton: Roger Dean Publishing, 2000.
Patterson, Willis, comp. The New Negro Spiritual. Ann Arbor, MI: By the compiler, 608 E.
Taylor, Vivian, ed. Art Songs and Spirituals by African-American Women Composers. Bryn
Mawr, PA: Hildegard Publishing, 1995.
Fisk University Jubilee Singers: in Chronological Order. Vol. 2, 1915-1920. Compact disc
DODC-5534. Document Records, 1997.
Give Me Jesus: Spirituals. Barbara Hendricks, The Moses Hogan Singers. Compact disc.
7243 5 56683 2 5 EMI. 1998.
The Gospel Truth about the Negro Spiritual 14
Gospel: The Essential Album. Various artists. Compact disc MANTDCD216. Union Square
Gospels, Spirituals & Hymns. Mahalia Jackson. Compact disc C2K47083. Columbia/Legacy,
Jubilation!: Great Gospel Performances. Various artists. Compact disc R2 70288. Rhino, 1992.
Listen to the Lamb: the Music of R. Nathaniel Dett. The Nathaniel Dett Chorale. Compact disc
7 74718 12932 1. Marquis, 2002.
Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1891-1922. Various artists.
Compact discs ARCH 1005. Archeophone, 2005.
Negro Religious Songs and Services: The Library of Congress Archive of Folk Culture. Various
artists. Compact disc CD 1514. Rounder Select, 1999.
Negro Spirituals: La Tradition de Concert/The Concert Tradition, 1909-1948. Various artists.
Compact disc FA 168. Frémeaux & Associés, 1999.
Precious Lord: Recordings of the Great Gospel Songs of Thomas A. Dorsey. Various artists.
Compact disc CK 57164. Columbia/Legacy, , 1973.
Sam Cooke: The Man and His Music. Sam Cooke. Compact disc PCD1-7127. RCA Victor,
Songs of Free Men: A Paul Robeson Recital. Paul Robeson, Lawrence Brown, Columbia
Concert Orchestra. Compact disc MHK 63223. Columbia Masterworks, 1997.
Spirituals. Simon Estes. Compact disc 4120631-2. Philips, 1985.
Take 6. Take 6. Compact disc 9 25670-2. Reprise, 1988.
Voices of the Civil Rights Movement. Various performers. Compact discs SF 40084.
Smithsonian Folkways, 1997.
Where the Sun Will Never Go Down: Spirituals and Traditional Gospel Music. Chanticleer,
Joseph Jennings. Compact disc 4509-90878-2. Teldec Classics, 1994.
WOW Gospel 2004. Various artists. Compact disc 82876-57494-2R. Zomba, 2004.
Oh Happy Day. Produced & directed by David Leivick & Frederick Ritzenberg. 60 min.
Monterey Home Video, 2004. Videodisc.
The Spirituals: Featuring the American Spiritual Ensemble. Directed by Ari Luis Palos and
produced by Eren Isabel McGinnis. 28 min. Dos Vatos Productions, 2007. Videodisc.