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How America’s Musical Identity Can Still Be Seen in the Negro Spirituals
Negro spirituals evolved within American culture at a time when all seemed lost for the people who invented them.
Treated like work animals, American slaves possessed neither full human status nor citizenship in the country where they toiled. Yet over centuries of oppression, slaves forged a distinct identity from which emerged new aesthetic insights and a musical perspective unique only to blacks in the United States.
The grandeur of the Negro spirituals were in full auditory effect recently at the African Meeting House in Boston, which sits on the northern slope of Beacon Hill — a now tony neighborhood once home to Boston’s black community and a major stop on the Underground Railroad where escaping slaves from the South would arrive with the spirituals and freedom on their minds.
Some mournful and melodic, evoking sad suffering sounds, others upbeat and auspiciously hopeful, the spirituals communicate a wide-range of sacred musical innovation.