How Negro Spirituals Helped Our People Talk To God

When times get hard, we can always lean on God’s word. Our ancestors knew this well, and these spirituals remind us of the understanding of God’s love for our people.

How Negro Spirituals Helped Our People Talk To God
Via Wikimedia Commons

While our enslaved ancestors toiled in fields and over hot stoves, it was Negro spirituals, songs full of God’s hope and love, that kept them. Many of their songs referenced Bible stories that reflected their conditions. 

They used spirituals to talk to God. 

One of the core messages of many spirituals was that all-knowing God saw and heard the cries and pain of our people. Spirituals were a direct call on God for hope and understanding. 

One spiritual asked, “Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel – and why not every man?

He delivered Daniel from the lion’s den, Jonah from the belly of the whale, and the Hebrew children from the fiery furnace, and why not every man?”

Our people believed that Jesus deeply understood the physical pain they suffered during enslavement due to his crucifixion. They expressed this connection in spirituals with lyrics like: “Nobody knows de trouble I’ve seen, Lord/Nobody knows like Jesus.”

Enslaved people also looked to God as a symbol of hope and deliverance from oppression. Exodus 3:8 helped them hope: “I shall descend to rescue [the Israelite nation] from the Land of Egypt and bring it up from the land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey.”

We’ve always imbued God’s name with a certain kind of power. God has always been on our side. We must never forget that. 

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