Spirituals originated among enslaved Africans in America during the colonial era. They resonate throughout African American history from that time to the civil rights movement, from the cotton fields to the concert stage, and influenced everything from gospel music to blues and rap. They have offered solace in times of suffering, served as clandestine signals on the Underground Railroad, and been a source of celebration and religious inspiration.
Spirituals are born from the womb of African American experience, yet they transcend national, disciplinary, and linguistic boundaries as they connect music, theology, literature and poetry, history, society, and education. In doing so, they reach every aspect of human experience. To make sense of the immense impact spirituals have made on music, culture, and society, this bibliography cites writings from a multidisciplinary perspective.
This annotated bibliography documents articles, books, and dissertations published since 1902. Of those, 150 are books; 80 are chapters within books; 615 are journal articles, and 150 are dissertations, along with a selection of highly significant items published before 1920. The most recent publications included date from early 2014.
Disciplines researched include music, literature and poetry, American history, religion, and African American Studies. Items included in the annotated bibliography are limited to English-language sources that were published in the United States and focus on African American spirituals in the United States, but there are a few select citations that focus on spirituals outside of the United States. Of the one thousand annotations, they are divided, roughly evenly, between: general studies and geographical studies; information about early spirituals; use of spirituals in art music, church music, and popular music; composers who based music on spirituals; performers of spirituals (ensembles and individuals); Bible, theology, and religious education; literature and poetry; pedagogical considerations, including the teaching of spirituals as well as prominent educators; reference works and a list of resources that were unavailable for review but are potentially useful.
This book also offers considerable depth on particular topics such as the Fisk Jubilee Singers and William Grant Still with over thirty citations devoted to each. At the same time, materials included are quite diverse, with topics such as spirituals in Zora Neale Hurston’s novels; bible studies based on spirituals; enriching the teaching of geography through spirituals; Marian Anderson’s historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial; spiritual roots of rap; teaching dialect to singers; expressing African American religion in spirituals; Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s music; slave tradition of singing among the Gullah.
The book contains indices by author, subject, and spiritual title. Additionally, an appendix of spirituals by biblical reference, listing both spiritual title to scriptural reference as well as scripture to spiritual title is included. T. L. Collins, Christian educator, compiled the appendix.