Black Spirituals, what is the meaning behind them?
Now we’ve heard Lift Every Voice and Sing and Amazing
Grace. Now, let’s hear about the history of Black Spirituals.
A song gives a story so Black spirituals give a portion of
Our BlACk hISTORY.
Our African American people were involved in the Second Awakening.
They met in camp meetings and sang without any
hymnbook. Spontaneous songs were composed at the spur of
the moment. They were called spiritual songs.
Black Spirituals are Christian songs and most of
them involve what the bible says and how to
live with the Spirit of God. For example, dark
days of bondage were enlightened by the hope and
faith that God will never leave those enslaved.
African Americans used to sing outside of
churches. Workers working at the fields were
singing work songs. They got together and
hauled a fallen tree and heavy load.
Even prisoners sung chain gang songs
when they worked on the road or some
other construction project. Songs like quiet
songs were either sung by soloist and
even by many slaves. They were
used to express personal feeling and
cheering each other up. That way the
people would sing secret messages.
They were sung in church, in meetings,
at work, and at home.
The meaning of these songs were like
covert. THerefore, Christian slaves know
what they mean, they even showed
a personal relationship between the
slave singer and God.
The codes of the first negro spirituals
are often relate with an escape to a free
county. A home is a safe place anyone
can live in peace and fee. So a Home
can be Heaven, but it literally means a sweet
and free counry, a haven for slaves.
The ways used by fugitives running to
a free country were riding in on a chariot or
even a train. Black Sprituals like The Gospel
Train, Swing low, sweet chariot refer specifically
to the Underground Railroad, an informal organization who helped
get slaves FREED.
Swing Low, Sweet chariot refers to Ripley, a Station of the Underground
Railroad, where fugitive slaves were wanted. This town is at the top of the
hill so it’s not easy to cross. In order to reach this place fugitives had to
wait for help coming from the hill. The words of the spiritual say this:
I looked over Jordan and what did I see/ Coming for to carry me home/
A band of angels coing after me”
THERE IS A BALM IN GILEAD
This is a well-known negro spiritual, which has an interesting meaning.
The “balm in Gilead” is quoted in the Old Testament, but the lyrics of this spiritual refer to the New Testament (Jesus, Holy Spirit, Peter, and Paul). This difference is interesting to comment. In the Old Testament, the balm of Gilead cannot heal sinners. In the New Testament, Jesus heals everyone who comes to Him.
So, in the book of Jeremiah, several verses speak about Gilead. In chapter 22, v. 6 and 13: The Lord says (about the palace of the king of Judea) “Though you are like Gilead to me, like the summit of Lebanon, I will surely make you like a desert, like towns inhabited… Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, making his countrymen work for nothing, not paying them for their labour”.
In the same book of Jeremiah, chapter 46, v. 2 and 11, “This is the message (of the Lord) against the army of Pharaoh Neco … Go up to Gilead and get balm, O Virgin Daughter of Egypt, but you multiply remedies in vain; here is no healing for you”.
In the New Testament, the four Gospels say that Jesus healed many people whatever their conditions: he can heal the poor. A Christian who feels the Spirit must share its faith and “preach”, like Peter and Paul.