African American Spirituals and the Camp Meetings
Identifying the roots of African American spirituals and other religious folk music has intrigued academics, hymnologists and song leaders since this genre came to the public eye in 1867. The conversation on origins has waned and waxed for over eighty years, sometimes polemical, sometimes compromising. They Bear Acquaintance looks at this discussion through the output of various well-regarded researchers from the twentieth century. The effects of cultural distinctions, immigration patterns and class structure have all left their imprint on the anatomy of the music. No one living has ever heard a spiritual performed in an authentic setting, so misconceptions abound. Pre-dating the American Civil War and achieving global attention in the Civil Rights movement, the spirituals soften the edges of difficult situations, and speak gently, yet poignantly, to human struggles. The book also pinpoints new material from a wide range of sources in the twenty-first century that will preserve and affirm this music for many years to come.
Conclusion: The Song Goes On
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The Song Goes On
George Pullen Jackson is the only person who has attempted to look at the American religious folk music piece by piece. His charts, maps, comparisons and personal experiences are a sweeping study of the common pioneer, refugee, and slave. Jackson suspected and proved a devotional connection between these neglected people and their music. Carelessness or indifference to the slave music was never outlined in his work. Jackson’s racism is not in his research or conclusions, but in his outlook. His shortcoming was that he did not recognize the black American’s need for purchase or proprietorship. In a sense, the Negro spiritual gently opened the eyes of the white world to the egregious circumstances of the slave. One hundred and forty-seven years after Slave Songs of the United States, these spirituals appear in all the hymnals of the major Christian denominations the world over.
All of the aforementioned researchers say at the end of their work: there is still much to be explored. The direction for this exploration seems to be two-fold: first a deeper look into the Gaelic influence in the colonies, and second, a comprehensive look into West African folk song with an eye to the spirituals. Both avenues have their spokespersons.
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