Africanisms Retained in the Spiritual Tradition

african-mask-borderMaultsby, Portia K. “Africanisms Retained in the Spiritual Tradition.” In International Musicological Society, Report of the Twelfth Congress, Berkeley 1977, edited by Daniel Heartz and Bonnie C. Wade, 75–82. Kassel: Barenreiter, 1981.

During the colonial and antebellum periods (1619–1861), Southern slaves created several cultural forms that preserved elements of their African past. The form of religious music that emerged from the culture established by slaves became known as spirituals. The degree to which West African musical traditions and cultural practices influenced the evolution of African American spirituals varied and was dependent on the social structures that determined the slaves’ daily existence. This discussion surveys the evolution of African American spirituals within the context of social environments and through an analysis of proposed theories regarding their origin. (Author’s abstract, slightly revised)