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The Importance of Slave Songs in African American History

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Though out African American history student were thought that Africans slaves sing a great deal of folk’s songs. Africans could make up a tune about anything to help them get through the work day. When the slaves on the plantation work it helps them function better to sing songs. According to Black Culture and Black Consciousness by Lawrence W. Levine a former slave said “we would pick cotton and sing, pick cotton and sing all day.” Music was a daily element in every slave’s life. The singing together allows the task at hand to be more bearable. It would have been very difficult to get through slavery without music and other people to share music with. The picking and sing of cotton shows a certain rhyme. The slave’s songs were an outlet that allows each induvial and group of slaves to express themselves without judgement. The songs were a way to be creative in expressing ones emotions and feelings of the master and neighbors. The slave songs gave the slaves the freedom to express themselves and how they feel towards each other. The psychological aspect of salves song was explained by the Ashanti high priest. He asserted “…man and woman, free man and slaves, should have the freedom to speak out just what was in their head, to tell their neighbor just what they thought of them, and of their action, and not only their neighbor, but also the king or chief (9).” People should have the freedom to express them self whether through songs or spoken words it help them to heal their soul. When people are not allowed to express how they feel to their leaders and neighbor they can get hurt and their soul become sick.

Slave songs have a leader someone who would start the song, Someone who have a powerful voice and rhythm. After the leader sing the first line the other slaves would join in and sing the chorus. After the chorus then there is another solo line and then another brief chorus then a longer chorus. The way they knew what to sing about was by the surrounding. Someone of the lines the slaves would sing was known by all. The other lines they would sing come from their surrounding their environment. They would make up a song about anything. “Some of these were full of rude wit, and a lucky hit always drew a thundering chorus from the rowers…”(7). The slaves would sometime composed songs that make fun of the mistress or master. They would sing in words that they would not understand. To the outside audience it is nonsense only the singers know what they are talking about. There are different types of slave songs they have field songs, work songs and social songs. It does not matter what the song is about they always sing together. In the slave songs the singers does not pay much attention to rhythm nor the number of syllable in a line it just goes together. Slaves composed songs about any kind of work that they are doing to make the day go by. For example these slaves cutting down trees and they would sing a song like this “a col’ frosty mo’nin’ De niggers feelin’ good Take yo’ax upon yo’ shoulder to de wood. Songs like these are not written on paper before they are delivered to an audience. The leader would find a rhythm while they are cutting trees that fit together. This kind of song allow everyone to chop at the same time it have a certain togetherness that bond each slaves to each other. Songs sometimes are compose by the way the sing feel about something. The songs reflects the culture of enslave people by showing how strong each person bond is and what they think is funny. They only socialize with each other and only the people in the group can understand the songs to join in. +

African American slaves did not confined their religion to a specific time and place. They believe that they can reach the high being in any situation. Slaves believe there is a god that will one day save them and they praise him. “But for the most part when they look upon the cosmos they saw man, nature, and God as a unity” (32). Slaves see a world after this as everyone coming together as one with no hate in their heart. They see the world of being peaceful when they think of God no more pain and suffering no more bandage. They see Anglo and Black people coming together and celebrating life. African American spirituality is different than the contemporary Anglo American spirituality. Anglo American they see their need was to used Christianity as a form of social control. They did not believe in a higher being they used the bible as weapon to the slaves who could not read and would possible believe those words. They have church to tell the slaves what they should and should not do because God is watching. Example “Q what command has God given to servants, concerning obedience to their masters? A “servants obey in all things your master…fearing God” (45.) They used the word of God against their slave and sometime make up word that are not in the bible. They did not used the worship day as a time to worship God and thank him for all the God but yet they used it as a day to play God.

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The Importance of Slave Songs in African American History. (2018, November 15). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 27, 2023, from
“The Importance of Slave Songs in African American History.” GradesFixer, 15 Nov. 2018,
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