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From Slave Songs to Hip Hop

The History of Black Music in America

Alicia McClure

on 20 February 2018

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Transcript of From Slave Songs to Hip Hop

Having looked at the evolution surrounding slave songs in 1890s it is evident that they carried significance prior to and following on from this period.

The songs that we have explored have been carried through until the present day, which shows their importance as they still manage to express their original meaning.
From Slave Songs to Hip Hop
African Roots
The major objective of traditional African music was to ‘recite the history of the people’

Slave Songs of the United States (1867) is a book holding a collection of valuable African American spirituals, which have been extremely influential through time.

The book is said to be the 'milestone not just in African American music but in modern folk history'.

The original recordings of many of the songs were by the Fisk Jubilee Singers. We felt their versions were significant as the group often toured along the Underground Railroad path offering education to the freed African Americans

Minstrels and Jazz
Minstrelsy was a white reaction to black slave songs, and it focused on perpetuating crude, insensitive stereotypes

The mid 1950s saw the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement which included marches and peaceful protests.
The Black Pride movement of the late 1960s emphasised racial pride and drawing on African roots to promote black culture.
Influence on Modern Music
Slave Songs have influenced many modern music genres in a variety of ways.

Through taking the strong themes presented in the spirituals such as freedom and Christianity music has adapted through time.
Songs were often sung out of grief and
songs would be sang at ‘feasts for the dead, at wakes, and at funerals’

‘A refrain would be repeated by different singers,
sometimes challenging and answering each other’
(Gillum: 1943)

Hip Hop/Rap
Hip Hop/Rap
Spirituals in Film
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Michael, Row The Boat Ashore
'The modern gospel style is barely sixty years old, but it continues a tradition of singing, preaching, and shouting familiar to generations of black people' (Heilbut:1992)
‘Any gospel singer, even the hippest, can summon feelings of nostalgia for a simpler time when everybody believed and participated in old-time religion’ (Heilbut:1992)
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000)
12 Years A Slave (2013)
'Far less controlled, gospel-based, emotion-baring kind of music that grew up in the wake of the success of Ray Charles' (Guralnick:1986)

'Soul remains the story of how a universal sound emerged from the black church' (Guralnick:1986)

'Historically it represents another chapter in the development of black conciousness...but more wipespread in its immediate impact' (Guralnick:1986)
Sail Away
Negro Spirituals were extremely important to slaves. The tradition of singing had been carried over from Africa and was heavily integrated in their culture.
Minstrels show-tunes manipulated and belittled the themes of slave songs by using comedy. It ‘jangled the nerves of those who believed in music that was proper'
(Cockrell: 1997)
Jazz is considered by many to be a ‘union of African and European music’ (Jazz In America: 2014)
Both jazz and minstrelsy commercialised African-American culture, although in the case of jazz this did not necessarily negate the original significance of slave songs.
Fighting Temptations (2003)
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Down to the River to Pray
Roll Jordan Roll
Spirituals "convey(ed) to listeners the same feeling of rootlessness and misery" as the blues. (Southern:1997)

The transition from country to urban blues

Due to the music of the Civil Rights movements in the U.S. there was a revival of American roots music and early African American music
As block parties became increasingly popular in New York City during the 1970s the music and culture of hip-hip was formed.
The earliest recording of this song was identified as the version sung by the Frisk Jubilee Singers in 1909

The song itself has been identified as a ‘coded song’, the lyrics often revolve around the 'Underground Railroad'

There is a sense of unity expressed throughout the different versions which has been carried all throughout history

The lyrics have remained the same throughout the different versions which is a crucial factor in the evolution of the song as it shows that the main meaning of the song has not altered and so the song will still hold much of its original significance.
Swing low, sweet chariot
Coming forth to carry me home,
Swing low, sweet chariot,
Coming forth to carry me home.

I looked over Jordan, and what did I see
Coming forth to carry me home?
A band of angels coming after me,
Coming forth to carry me home.

Sometimes I'm up, and sometimes I'm down,
But still my soul feels heavenly bound.

The brightest day that I can say,
When Jesus washed my sins away.

If I get there before you do,
I'll cut a hole and pull you through.

If you get there before I do,
Tell all my friends I'm coming too.
Battell, Andrew. The Strange Adventures of Andrew Battell of Leigh, in Essex in Angola and the Adjoining Regions.
(London, UK: The Hakluyt Society, 1901)

Cockrell, Dale. Demons of Disorder: Early Blackface Minstrels and their World. (Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press, 1997)

Cruz, Gilbert. 'A Brief History of Motown', in TIME Magazine, January 2009.

Darden, Robert., People Get Ready!: A New History of Black Gospel Music. (London, U.K: The Continnium International Publishing Group, 2004), pp.99

Fisher, Miles Mark. Negro Slave Songs in the United States. (New York, NY: Carol Publishing Group, 1990)

Genovese, Eugene.
Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World The Slaves Made
(New York: Pantheon, 1974)

Gillum, Ruth. 'The Negro Folksong in American Culture' in Journal of Negro Education, volume XII.
(Washington D.C: Howard University Press, 1943)

Hare, Maud Cuney. Africa in Song. (Chester, PA: unpublished term paper at Lincoln University, 1940)

Jazz In America. http://www.jazzinamerica.org/lessonplan/5/1/249. (Accessed 24/02/2014)

Manhattan Beach Music. http://www.manhattanbeachmusic.com/html/swing_low.html

Shelton, Robert. 'Songs a Weapon in Rights Battle', in New York Times, August 1962.

Songs and the Civil Rights Movement. http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_songs_and_the_civil_rights_movement/

von Buseck, Craig.
Black History:The Origins of the Spirituals
(CBN.com, n.d)
'Blues singers didn't have to respect social conventions or thw church's shopworn homilies; they were free to live the way they wanted and to tell the uth as they saw it' (Palmer:1981)
Alabama Blues
The roots of rapping are found in African-American music and ultimately African music.

Many African-American traditions influenced hip hop music, for example the call and response patterns used in African and African-American religious ceremonies.
Lyrical adjustment from songs of traditional slave culture to be suitable for the cause.
Support of media and popular culture, including Harry Belafonte.
"Motown assembled the soul and pop classics that changed America." (Cruz: 2009)

Pete Seeger was another prominent activist for civil rights, and was responsible for reviving the song
Michael, Row the Boat Ashore.
Michael row de boat ashore, Hallelujah!Michael boat a gospel boat, Hallelujah!I wonder where my mudder deh (there).
See my mudder on de rock gwine home. On de rock gwine home in Jesus' name. Michael boat a music boat.
Gabriel blow de trumpet horn.
O you mind your boastin' talk.
Boastin' talk will sink your soul. Brudder, lend a helpin' hand.
Sister, help for trim dat boat.
Jordan stream is wide and deep.
Jesus stand on t' oder side.
I wonder if my maussa deh.
My fader gone to unknown land.
O de Lord he plant his garden deh.
He raise de fruit for you to eat.
He dat eat shall neber die.
When de riber overflow.
O poor sinner, how you land?
Riber run and darkness comin'.
Sinner row to save your soul.
The version of
Michael, Row The Boat Ashore
which is widely known today was first adated by Tony Saleton who, in turn, taught it to Pete Seeger in 1954.

The song was first noted on St Helena Island where a man named Charles Pickard Ware wrote down the song in music notation.

Historians class
Michael, Row The Boat Ashore
as both a spiritual and work song.

There are many different versions of the song as the lyrics were passed down orally, consequently leading to a distortion of the original lyrics.
They also provided rhythm for repetitive chores.
These songs allowed slave communities to remember their history since most were not educated and had no written language.
Craig von Buseck notes slave songs as a source of communication between slaves in the south (The Origins of the Spirituals, n.d)
They were used as signals, such as a warning of danger to other slaves
Cries to God for freedom and a form of expression
Eugene Genovese notes an absence of a theme of revenge in Negro Spirituals because of a 'paternalistic society' (Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World The Slaves Made: 1976)
Religion was important to slaves as it enforced bonds between the community for survival
Close kinship with the Hebrews and God as they hoped for God's salvation
From one of the darkest times in our nation's history comes a family of music that many would say has become some of the most influential, creative, expressive music of all time.
Traditional African
Slave Songs
The Blues
R&B, Soul, Funk
Rock 'n Roll
Hip Hop
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