Archive for the ‘Spirituals’ Category

Author: LeRoy Moore, Jr.

Source: American Quarterly, Vol. 23, N° 5, Dec., 1971, pp. 658-676


“THE AMERICAN NEGRO SPIRITUALS ARE THE PRODUCT OF THE FUSION OF Christian piety and the slave experience of persons of African descent. Alain Locke designated the antebellum decades beginning about 1830 as the “classic” period of the composition of these songs.  The aptness of his designation is indicated on the one hand by the fact that after the Civil War the songs were available to compilers, cataloguers, commentators and jubilee singers,  and on the other that in the decades immediately before the war circumstances converged to provide the conditions out of which the spirituals arose.”



Author: Natalie Curtis Burlin

Some early studies on Negro folk song have received very little attention. One of them is the work produced by Natalie Curtis Burlin (1875-1921): Negro Folk-Songs, 1918. Natalie Curtis Burlin was an American ethnomusicologist who dedicated most of her efforts to the study of the native American folk, but was later in life also fascinated with African American music. She strove to record, not change, the music she heard, noting in the foreword to the first volume: “These notations of Negro folk-songs are faithful efforts to place on paper an exact record of the old traditional plantation songs as sung by Negroes… . I have added nothing and I have striven to omit nothing.” 


Author: Howard W. Odum



The historical dissertation of Howard W. Odum on the popular spirituals of the African-Americans by which he obtained his first doctorate, 1909.

Howard Odum is one of the first to approach the African-American folk song body from a scholarly perspective.



Authors: Howard Odum & Guy Johson


1926. Negro workaday songs. University of North Carolina Press


Howard Odum can be said to be a pioneer in the study of the social life and folk culture of the South.

Negro Workaday Songs, published in 1926, reprinted in 1969, is one of his key works.

Odum, Howard Washington, (May 24, 1884 – Nov. 8, 1954), sociologist, was born near Bethlehem, Ga., the son of William Pleasants Odum and Mary Ann Thomas Odum. He grew up in modest circumstances on his family’s small farm. His formal education was a product of hard work, borrowed money, and happy coincidence. At the age of thirteen the family moved to Oxford, Ga., where he attended Emory Academy and College, graduating in 1904 with the B.A. degree in English and classics. Negro Workaday Songs is the third volume of a series of folk background studies of which The Negro and His Songs was the first and Folk-Beliefs of the Southern Negro was the second. So far as Odum was aware, none of the songs in this collection had been published and the songs were all sung or repeated by actual Black workers or singers and much of their value lies in the exact transcription of natural lines, words and mixtures. Odum intended his study of Black music as a series of pictures of the Black American as portrayed through his workaday songs.He has taken the position that these workaday songs, crude and fragmentary, and often having only local or individual significance, provide a more accurate picture of Negro working life than do conventional folk songs. Odum’s book is also an important contribution to the history of the blues in America and a collector’s item in that field



Author: Paul Fritz Laubenstein
Source: The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 3. (Jul., 1930), pp. 378-403


If you are in the mood for some historical reading which concludes a.o. that “Jazz and Blues reveal the bankruptcy of the Negro’s music divorced as they are from religion”, then start reading HERE