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The History of Spirituals
Old World Map
Before 1865

Almost all the first Africans who arrived in the New World were slaves. They came from several regions of the African West Coast. Their ways of living were described by slaves themselves, in some narratives. They had to work either in plantations or in town.

The very first spirituals were created by slaves, who were not professionals. In “shouts”, singers and dancers participated for pleasure; singers were either tired dancers or the most talented voices. Slaves also attended religious services at church and in plantation houses. They used to sing hymns, psalms and spirituals. Preachers there often led the congregations for singing.

Some Praying and Singing Bands met after the formal worship services for praying, dancing holy dances and singing “corn-field ditties” (precursors of negro spirituals). The man who could sing loudest and longest led the Band. He had a handkerchief in hand with which he kept time and he tapped the floor with his feet like a bass drum.

Many musicians and singers had also the opportunity to perform in barbershops. Their songs were rather secular even if some pieces were based on spirituals.