Further Information: Richard Collman: There is a Balm in Gilead

Expanded Description:

Week 1: Ten reasons why spirituals matter, history, oral tradition to printed page, call and response experience through music.  Can spirituals be a lens into our past and help us appropriate our conflicted American history?

Week 2:  The power of the spiritual, primary source of information amid cruelty and injustice, forms of resistance both then and now.  Possible symbolic meanings.  How “old” is “We Shall Overcome”?

Week 3:  Dr. Anton Armstrong, St. Olaf College, national resource on spirituals, presentation for the first half of the class.  How spirituals made a difference in the lives of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman.  How have and how might spirituals make a difference in our lives today?

Week 4:  Who can sing spirituals today (a current consideration)?  Are spirituals still relevant to our current human condition?  Performance practice in African American slave songs.  Can we reach across the centuries? 

Recommended books (resources for the curious—not specifically required for class):

            In Their Own Words: Slave Life and the Power of Spirituals,

            Eileen Guenther, Morning Star Music Pub., paper new from $28 and used from $23.67 on


            Way Over in Beulah Lan’, (Understanding and Performing the Negro Spiritual), Andre J.                   Thomas, Heritage Music Press, Lorenz Pub., forward by Anton Armstrong, 2007, used from             $44.52 on bookfinder.com.

            The Spirituals & the Blues, James H. Cone, Orbis Books, 1972, 1991, paperback new from       $13.79 and used from $8.43 on bookfinder.com.

Class preparation:  Be prepared to share one or two of your favorite spirituals and why they are your favorites, what associations you have with them, even a CD excerpt you might wish to share.