He realizes that in those songs it made him really understand how much pain and suffering he had to go through as well as other slaves that were so unfathomable that hearing those songs again would only cause him grief beyond belief. Those songs would be the only evidence of what slaves had to encounter and in hearing those songs it explains the very meaning behind what slavery really meant and how inhumane it actually was and only the ones who sung those songs truly understood the agonizing truth behind
Songs were used in everyday life by African slaves. The slaves called these songs negro spirituals. People such as Harriet Tubman and others used songs as a means for communication amongst each other in their fight to gain freedom. Many slaves knew the secret meanings of words from the negro spirituals, so they could be used to signal many things. For example, Harriet Tubman used the song “Wade in the Water” to tell slaves who were trying to escape to get off the trail and go into the water. This made sure that the dogs slavecatchers couldn’t sniff out their trail. Other slaves used songs as signals. For example, the Virginia slave Nat Turner, who organized a revolt against slave owners, used the song “Steal Away” as a signal to call people together to talk about their plans (“Joe Carter and the Legacy of African American Spirituals.”)
African American influence in music has been an ever present and controversial subject in American history. Stemming from many different cultures, religions and backgrounds, large portions of American music was introduced by, and credited to African Americans. Although in many cases, this music was used for entertainment by the masses or majority, contrary to popular belief, black music served a greater purpose than just recreation. Dating all the way back to the beginning of slavery in the U.S. during the 17th century, music has been used to make a statement and send a message. As African American music progressed over the years, there were common themes expressed as the genres evolved. It has been an open letter to the world, documenting and protesting the ongoing oppression faced by blacks in the United States, as well as an outlet for frustration. For many African Americans, the music gave them the only voice that couldn’t be silenced by their oppressors.
The power of song helped slaves through their dehumanized lives. They created unity in songs of religion and denounced the power their masters held over them. They were going to rebel in all facets of life. Slaves knew “that a happy slave is an extinct man” (p.33). The meanings of these songs can not be overstated. One who knew the importance of song was Frederick Douglass. “They told a tale of woe...they breathed the prayer and complaint of souls boiling over with the
Researchers found that more than ten thousand people are in forced labor across 90 US cities. These people are forced to work in sweatshops, clean homes, work on farms, or work as prostitutes or strippers. Many of these cases are accumulated in areas with large immigrant populations, like California, New York, and Florida. Most of the victims of forced labor are “imported” from 38 different countries. China, Mexico, and Vietnam top this list of countries (Gilmore 1).
Reason: A lot of emphasis of was placed on the effect these songs had on Frederick Douglass’ soul, and his view on slavery. Song was used as an outlet by the slaves to express their sadness and desolate emotions, a rallying cry and proof of their humanity, despite the dehumanization they faced as slaves.
In his narrative, Douglass expresses incredulity at the fact that onlookers could hear anything but the deepest sadness in these slave songs. Writes Douglass, “I have often been utterly astonished, since I came to the north, to find persons who could speak of the singing among slaves, as evidence of their contentment and happiness. It is impossible to conceive of a greater mistake.” As suggested
In the expert from Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass, the speaker presents through the slaves song, about the dehumanizing character of slavery and his hatred towards it. According to the narrative it states “They would sometimes sing the most pathetic sentiment in the most rapturous tone, and the most rapturous sentiment in the most pathetic tone”(line25-26). This exemplifies how that there songs had the most sadness and true meaning of slavery in the most happiest tone, And they would sing the most happiest song in a sad tone. They did this to trick their bosses so that they won’t get in trouble, to add on the speaker implies “I have sometimes thought that the mere hearing of those songs would do more to impress some minds with
In the time period of slavery, many famous slave songs were produced, and most of the slave owners and others found their singing as a form of joy. In reality, singing was the slave’s form of sadness, and emotion. Slaves got through the day by singing about their hardships and troubles. Fredrick Douglass in the quote above explains that through all of his hardships, he got through it with his “sorrow songs” to pacify him and his fellow slaves to be able to complete their
Even though the woods surrounding the magnificent southern plantations were often filled with the slaves’ songs, they did not sing because they were happy. They sang because of their sorrow. Douglass brings this sorrow to the mind’s eye by telling us, “If any one wishes to be impressed with the soul-killing effects of slavery, let him go to Colonel Lloyd’s plantation, and, on allowance-day, place himself in the deep pine woods, and there let him, in silence, analyze the sounds that shall pass through the chambers of his soul, -- and if he is not thus impressed, it will only be because ‘there is no flesh in his obdurate heart.’” (Douglass, 51; quoting Cowper, The Task, book 2, line 8 (1785)). Douglass really makes his point
While on their way, they would sing their wild songs, enlightening their highest joy and deepest sadness. They would sometimes sing in the most pathetic emotion and the most joyful tone. Douglass stated, “I have often sung to drown my sorrow, but seldom to express my happiness. Crying for joy, and singing for joy, were alike uncommon to me while in the jaws of slavery. The singing of a man cast away upon a desolate island might be as appropriately considered as evidence of contentment and happiness, as the singing of a slave.” (p. 52). He came to the conclusion that salves would sing the most when they were unhappy and to let out their emotions and to represent the sorrows of their
Another important theme in Gilroy’s work was music and its associations with the African diaspora. Gilroy mentioned in the book “Black Americans were sustained and healed and nurtured by the translation of their experience into art above all in the music” (Gilroy 78). In the case of jazz and other forms of African music, Gilroy believed it created a sense
One of the most prominent forms of music that was incorporated by slaves in their daily lives was religious music. Another one of the most influential forms of musical expression among the slaves were slave songs, and these were songs of sorrow and misery. Some slave songs were joyful and cheerful, but others were sorrowful but were all deeply expressive. These songs were used by slaves as a means of communicating their true feelings and emotions, due to the brutal and repressive society that they resided in.
Popular singer Elton John once said; “music has healing power; it has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours”, and for most, music is the portal to an out of body experience. African American lyricists especially have been found to use the art of music to escape the real world, commencing from the slavery era and onward. The blues song titled The Tracks of My Tears does just that; expresses the ability to remove your soul from a treacherous reality. Similarly, the lyrics from popular modern songs, written by black artists, speak volumes about what is presently going on in the country, parallel to the way African American slavery songs did. Music written at an earlier period have been found to correlate to music of the past through providing strong emotion toward present day commentary.
The rise of Soul music was a product of the particular environment of that time in which the musicians who created it lived, a period much paralleled with the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) and Black Power Movement (BPM) (Maultsby, 1983, 54). The objective of this research was to examine any existence of political and social messages delivered in Soul music around the civil rights movement era in America, which would lead to a better understanding of the role of Soul music having served in the process of political and social changes in the country.