Negro Spirituals

1854 WordsAug 8, 20068 Pages
Humans from the coast of West Africa arrived to the New World as slaves. Stripped of everything familiar, they brought with them their traditional ways of using music to record historic events, expressions, and to accompany rituals. While toiling in the tobacco fields of Virginia, slaves were not permitted to speak to each other. So, they resorted to their African tradition. They sang! Today, these lyrics have crossed barriers and are sung in many churches across America as spirituals. However, such songs as Wade in the Water, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, and Follow the Drinking Gourd, were once used as an important tool of survival by the slaves of the antebellum era. The content of many Negro spirituals consisted of a religious…show more content…
Jordan or River Jordan is often referred to in Negro Spirituals. It is the code term for the body of water that slaves crossed to freedom; the Ohio River separated the North from the South. These are only a few terms to look for when decoding Negro spirituals (Thomas). A well- known spiritual that has found its way into the hymn books of America's religious institution is titled Wade in the Water. This song was created by the slaves of the south. It was used as a very important tool to assist Harriet Tubman. Tubman was a conductor of the Underground Railroad. Born into slavery, she was able to escape her life of bondage and successfully escorted over 300 slaves to freedom during a ten-year span (Public Broadcasting System). The lyrics of this sacred song alerted runaways that slave catchers were nearby, and advised the use of waterways to avoid being detected by scent-sniffing dogs. It also warned the runaway of the freezing temperature of the Ohio River (Songs). Slave owners kept their slave ignorant of geographic routes to limit escapes. But slaves knew the North states were where freedom lies. Abolitionist taught slaves to escape North by using the North Star as a navigation aid. It is the star that the earth axis points toward in the Northern sky. Slaves were able to locate Polaris by locating a constellation of stars that was in the shape of a big dipper. The North Star was very significant in the lives of
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