African American Religious Music

African American religious music is the foundation of all contemporary forms of so called "black music."  African American religious music has been a fundamental part of the black experience in this country.  This common staple of the African American experience can be traced back to the cruel system of slavery.  It then evolved into what we refer to today as gospel music.  The goal of this paper is to answer three main questions.  What are the origins of African American religious music?  How did this musical expression develop into a secular form of music?  What is the future of African American religious music?  These questions will be answered through factual research of African American traditions, artists, and various other sources.
    The origins of African American religious music are directly linked to the Negro spirituals of enslaved Africans.  One cannot research religious music of blacks in this country without first exploring these spirituals.  The spirituals were part of a religious expression that enslaved people used to transcend the narrow limits and dehumanizing effects of slavery.  It was through the performance of the spirituals that the individual and the community experienced their God, a God who affirmed their humanity in ways whites did not and a God who could set them free both spiritually and physically.  These "sacred songs" were also used as secret communication.  That is not to say that all spirituals functioned as coded protest songs or as some sort of secret language.  The structure of the spirituals and the way in which they were created and performed allowed for flexibility in their function and meaning.  
    The primary funct ...
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