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The History Of Gospel Music Essay

3296 words - 13 pages


Music is an important aspect of every society. Music can tell stories, release emotions, build bridges and break down barriers, but above all music is entertaining. There are various forms of music but not many have as rich a history as gospel music. The importance of gospel music has been relevant in American music for more than a century and its importance to society is still relevant to this day (See Appendix A). Gospel music helped slaves escape to freedom and paved the way for other styles of music. It promotes a spirit of hope and provided an outlet to worship God. So how exactly has Gospel music impacted today’s society?
Music has been relevant in Christianity since its beginnings. Some of the first music was written in Latin and they were called Hymns. “Hymn is a song of praise” (Van Camp) and were sung only by catholic churches. When Martin Luther led the Protestant Reformation and helped create Protestant Christianity, he began translating hymns into German. All around Europe people were translating hymns into different languages. These translations were brought over by European settlers coming to America and were used frequently in both Catholic and Protestant churches.
Contemporary, as well as older, Gospel music originated from the “Spirituals.” The spirituals, also known as the “Negro Spirituals or African-American folk songs,” were religious songs sung by the African Americans slaves in Southern America. The spirituals spawned from teachings of Christianity from slave owners, the church and even hymns. The songs were usually about love, hope, peace, oppression, freedom and even used as a secret code. The African American slaves would sing while working so much so that slave owners became fond of the music and some even adopted in into their style of worship. The slaves actually used Spirituals as their “liberation theology,” and also as subliminal messaging (Perry A4). Spirituals were not only “sung to keep spirits up” (Thompson 9), but were used as coded messages to give directions for where to go or how to proceed to freedom in the North. The slave owners believed that the slaves were happy because they sang church songs and they praised God but little did they know, that the slaves were secretly communicating. For instance, during the Underground Railroad, songs like “Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd,’ ‘Wade in the Water,’ and ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,’ all directly refer to secret code about using the Underground Railroad.” As many as 100,000 slaves escaped by means of this method (Thompson 9).
When President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, over twenty million Americans, both black and white moved out of the southern United States. This move as stated by Whitaker, “transformed religion, American popular culture, racial hierarchies, American conservative and the nature of American regions.” During this revolutionary movement, “Baptist and Pentecostal churches” and...

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