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The following tape recorded program is a presentation of the National Association of educational broadcasters. The Negro spiritual This is the second in a series of programs conducted by Ralph Kohn folk singer and musicologist. These programs are produced in the studios of KPFA Berkeley California. Now here is Mr. Kahn. Now last week I was blind the musical heritage which the slaves had brought over from Africa in the United States. The slave made a new sound. And this was the music of the revivalist white religious groups. And already in 1750 dissenting church groups strongly individualized such as Baptists Methodists Presbyterians shakers Christians realized that what they could not offer in buildings and power and strength and money they could make up in song.
These Before this are revivalist singing movement was created under the leadership of men like John Wesley. There had been some commentary on the singing of established religious groups and most of it agreed that the singing resembled very closely and I quote the braying of asses. It was after the revivalist singing came him that very powerful music was created by these dissenting very individualistic small church groups. Were the ear.
Uh oh uh uh uh uh uh uh uh uh okay.
We are in the eighteenth century John Wesley wrote a number of hymns and throughout the 18th and early 19th century large numbers of hymns were either written or simply adopted from existing folk songs. The dictum arose that there is no reason why the devil should have all the good tunes and even such as Barbara Allen and fiddle and bagpipe backpack tunes were used for melodies they hymnals through from the larger repertoire of Irish Welsh and Scotch tunes. Will.
They. Say they was. He was a I was a I
was. A God. YEAH YEAH I AM THAT I AM I AM Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah ok. Was ok. Oh uh oh and. Yeah I
am or I am. The religious feelings of these dissenters were intensely personal and their songs provided a strong emotional outlet revivalist meetings often reached a fever pitch huge camp meetings and brush Harbor meetings sometimes lasted for a week with dozens of preachers exhorting the multitude on the punishments of sim and drawing forth visions of the eternal fires of hell and damnation. People screamed fell into convulsions got the jumps and fainted. We don't believe we're streaming the devil that is crouching at the foot of a tree and barking like dogs. Entire churches would be filled with the unconscious forms of those most recently saying.
It's not too difficult to understand why the slaves were easy prey for this person. They met a people that had also been once in Egypt and been saved by forces from above. They also became acquainted with the leader a man of deep compassion who would release them from their miseries. To them God was not the super engineer of the eighteenth century materialists. The stern Supreme Judge of the ancient Hebrews rather he was the person of each of them.
That. Was was. From the stories in the Bible. There comes an anti or more reality which the slaves adopted not only for the religious but also for the everyday secular life stories from the Bible which taught profound lessons were evolved into folk tales and carried forward in the best tradition of ancient balladry.
Don't believe the Book of the book that even the people in the book can recuse in the past by a man who could not see them and look blind and crippled from birth and the line. That the Lord will not begin the cry cry no go nobody help me. They even married the baby and there will
be a little lamb. Son of Man then my God stopped to look around by the bonobos on the ground and he touched his eyes with the palm of his pay and the bonnet was sold like a natural and will look back on but it was still messy on the stove. I must still don't have a star on TV. Above all the slave was given a personal way out the promise of a better life in heaven. It is always interesting to study a people is heaven because it teaches so much of their lives here below. The man who is hungry sees heaven as an unlimited collection of delicious food while he was always labored sees as an eternal resting place. I know moonlight I know starlight. I leave this body down.
I walk in the moonlight I walk in the starlight. I lay this body down. I know the graveyard I know the graveyard when I lay this body down I walk in the graveyard I walk through the graveyard to lay this body down. I lay in the grave and stretch out my arms I lay this body down. I go to the judgment in the evening of the day when I lay this body down and my soul and your soul will meet in the day when we lay this body down.
Go go go. Revivalist white. Religion talk very early. A masochistic trend and the emphasis was on the punishment for sin and the destruction of the earth. The horrors of eternal judgment. Their movement came
about around the belief that the day of the world's destruction had been foretold and millions of people prepare themselves for the destruction of their universe. And of course the day went past and we are still here. Some poor souls even believed so strongly that they put on their ascension robes climbed on roofs or trees and jumped to their eternal glory in negro revivalist religion. The emphasis was completely on the future. A denial of this life. All the all the terrible things that took put that took place in this life loaded the belief of the future emotionally. One example and a very good one. Glory glory hallelujah. When I Lay My Burden Down
all my troubles will be over when I Lay My Burden Down all my sickness will be over when I Lay My Burden Down.
Uh yeah. Lol oh. Yeah oh oh oh. Oh oh. Oh. Oh. Oh oh. Oh. Oh. Yeah yeah yeah yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah yeah.
Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah oh. Yeah. Yeah. That. Shit. Yeah yeah yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It was. The with. The with. But the risk was tremendous to work all your life and be considered
non-human to live this life under conditions of slavery and then to have no hope of release and change after this life. That was a horror too great to endure. The slave had to be saved and go on to a better life. And he must save others. Look down look down that long lonesome road before you travel on. Look down look down part of that long lonesome road where you and I must go. And even in the secular activities of the slave when he was cutting and when he was cutting sugar cane or picking cotton or swinging the hammer. The spiritual penetrating into EVERY into every part of his life. And very often took the form of a work song is spiritual work song. It. Was her. Whoa whoa.
Whoa whoa. Whoa. Whoa whoa. Whoa. On. The. Load.
This terrible urgency to be saved. The slave extended to those around him. Not only did he have to be saved but he also must save others and so their religion of the slaves became a militant one and the preacher became a leader in the Lord's army. Fight and fight on children and don't turn back. We are almost down to the shore.
It's not surprising that with the growth of the Abolition abolitionist movement the concept of a better land and of release from present day mystery was suddenly transferred to this life and the spiritual began to fulfil two functions. That after this life there would be a better life in heaven. And also that there was a better life perhaps waiting for us on this earth with the end of slavery or the escape from slavery. Oh freedom oh freedom oh freedom over me and before I'd be a slave I'll be buried in my grave and go home to my Lord and be free. Come go with me to that land come with me to the land I'm on my way and I won't turn back. And here of course a slave found a perfectly easy to disguise his temporal desires in biblical terms. To sing of freedom in this on this earth openly was tantamount to suicide. The South was already same and militarized and punished and punishment physical punishment of death would result from from such agitation. But the subtle threat that the slave began to level at the at the slave owner around him
was was very definite. Ain't no grave can hold my body down one of these days I'm going to be strong enough to overcome those things that are around me. And this also was loaded in the same emotional terms as as before had been the spiritual in regards to her. He. Told. The women. Here you know.
Oh you know. Mom. What do you know. What they eat I owe. My body. Get. Along. You know. You've been listening to the second in a series of programs and titled The Negro spiritual. These programs are produced by Ralph Kahn folk singer a musicologist
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Negro spiritual
White revivalist tune
Producing Organization
pacifica radio
KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This lecture focuses on the white revivalist tune and the emotional basis of spirituals.
Series Description
Talks by Rolf Cahn, folksinger and musicologist, with music from records, including replays from old collections.
Broadcast Date
Race and Ethnicity
Revivals--Southern States.
Media type
Producing Organization: pacifica radio
Producing Organization: KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
Speaker: Cahn, Rolf
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 55-31-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:50
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Chicago: “Negro spiritual; White revivalist tune,” 1955-08-28, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 4, 2023,
MLA: “Negro spiritual; White revivalist tune.” 1955-08-28. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 4, 2023. <>.
APA: Negro spiritual; White revivalist tune. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from