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spirituals

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Religious songs of African-Americans, often written with freer rhythms and harmonies than most standard hymns. Spirituals, many of which go back to the days of slavery, often speak of biblical models of deliverance, like the Exodus. Some well-known spirituals are “Gonna Lay Down My Burden,” “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho,” “Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

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Cultural definitions for spirituals (2 of 2)

spirituals

A kind of religious song originated by African-Americans. Spirituals are often written with freer rhythms and harmonies than most standard hymns. Many of them go back to the days of slavery, and they often speak of biblical models of deliverance, such as the Exodus. Several spirituals have become standard pieces of music for concert singers and choruses. “Gonna Lay Down My Burden,” “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho,” “Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and “When the Saints Go Marching In” are spirituals.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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