Humanities 110

Introduction to the Humanities

Humanities 110—Who, How, and Why Not?: Questioning African American Spirituals

Mark Burford Associate Professor of Music

MARCH 30, 2020

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This lecture was presented by Mark Burford, associate professor of music, on March 30, 2020.

African American spiritual is a form of religious folk song that has been a central part of American music and culture since its development by enslaved African Americans. The spiritual tradition was held up by intellectuals and artists in the first half of the twentieth century as religious expression and experience; an ongoing-yet-traditional art form; a defining expression of Black culture; inspiration; and an object of cultural and sociological study. Today we will listen to five spirituals performed and recorded in 1924 and 2000. We will also read discussion and analysis of the spiritual by four leading voices in the Harlem Renaissance: W. E. B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, Alain Locke, and James Weldon Johnson. For more on the African American spiritual, see here.