The Negro Spiritual



Why I Wrote
Go Down Moses: Celebrating the African-American Spiritual

By Richard Newman

I wrote Go Down Moses, a compilation of African American spirituals, because I wanted to help preserve what W.E.B Du Bois called, “the slave’s one articulate message to the world.”  We know little about actual slave life, particularly the slaves’ great achievement in transforming both African and Euro-American culture by skillfully blending these two unharmonious traditions. 

Because the black church was the institution least controlled by whites, it is here that we are most likely to see this metamorphosis, especially the melding of African religion with the evangelical Protestantism of the rural South. Also, I was eager to demonstrate that spirituals, in addition to being great hymns, are also powerful freedom songs, full of double meanings, signifying, encoded messages and secret language.

This is all concerned with liberation from bondage, and ranges from identification with Biblical characters delivered by God to practical instructions for self-liberation, that is, running away.

Spirituals are living music and living history, with a living message about freedom that will always be relevant. Richard Newman, Professor W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University .

Also, I was eager to demonstrate that spirituals, in addition to being great hymns, are also powerful freedom songs, full of double meanings, signifying, encoded messages and secret language.  This is all concerned with liberation from bondage, and ranges from identification with Biblical characters delivered by God to practical instructions for self-liberation, that is, running away.  Spirituals are living music and living history, with a living message about freedom that will always be relevant.

Richard Newman,
Professor W.E.B. Du Bois Institute,
Harvard University.

 

Go Down Moses; A Celebration of The African-American Spiritual

Named after one of the best known Negro Spirituals, Richard Newman’s Go Down Moses is a fascinating and an excellent book. It not only contains striking thematic drawings of related content, but also short, fast, easy to read meanings of the Negro Spirituals in it. The reader- friendly statement about each spiritual  contains rich, interesting bits of history related to the song, adding to the depth of an already significant contribution.

The book is published by Clarkson/Potter Publishers, New York, 1998.

Bay Area’s Support for Negro Spirituals Concert Overwhelming

Like in the olden days, when giving support to friends and neighbors was a way of life, the Bay Area generously lent its collective hand to Friends of Negro Spirituals in its promotion of the San Francisco Moses Hogan chorale concert. The support enabled the organization to not only sell its tickets on schedule, but also to generate demands for tickets that were not available; the concert sold out almost two month before the date of the event.

Friends of Negro Spirituals is grateful to the churches, businesses, organizations, individuals, choir directors, pastors, radio personalities, friends, and regular foot soldiers who amplified its voice, energy, visibility, and credibility many times over. It thanks Rochelle Metcalfe, “I heard That,” Sun Reporter; Sheila Robinson, Gospel program, radio station KISS, 98.1, Sundays, 5:30 - 9 AM; Emitt Powell, Gospel program, radio station KPOO, 89.5 FM, Wednesdays/ Fridays, 6 – 9 AM and Sundays, 6 A.M-12 Noon; E. Powell, Gospel program, radio station, KPFA, 94.1, Saturdays, 6 – 9 AM; Johnny Otis, “The Johnny Otis Show,” radio station KPFA, 94.1, Saturdays, 9 AM – 12 Noon; the Print Shop, 2629 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland, CA; “The Black Business Listings”; Alex Pritcher, President, San Francisco NAACP chapter; Leonard Gordon, Chair, Bay Area Kitchen Cabinet and Director, Ella Hill Hutch Center; Cassie Cooke, Ella Hill Hutch Community; Dorothy Cook, Choir director; Richard Heron, The Gospel Academy, Vera Brown, Bay Area Support, continued on page 5.

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