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date: 14 December 2019


  • James C. Downey
  •  and Paul Oliver


A type of folksong that originated in American revivalist activity between 1740 and the close of the 19th century. The term is derived from the biblical ‘spiritual songs’, a designation used in early publications to distinguish the texts from metrical psalms and hymns of traditional church usage.

James C. Downey

The category ‘white spiritual’ includes the folk hymn, the religious ballad and the camp-meeting spiritual, which is the counterpart of the black spiritual and shares with it certain musical elements, symbolism and probably (in part, at least) a common origin. This extensive genre was unnoticed in the USA until George Pullen Jackson, a professor of German at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, published White Spirituals in the Southern Uplands (1933), the first of a series of studies that documented its existence both in oral tradition and in published form in the shape-note tune books of rural communities (...

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Black Perspective in Music
A. McCarthy: Jazz on Record (London, 1968)
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