Folk Song Of The American Negro - Online Book

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110
FOLK SONG OF THE AMERICAN NEGRO.
CHAPTER IX.
What the Negro's Music Means to Him.
"The human soul and music are alone eternal."
I N the Negro's own mind his music has held, and still holds, posi�tions of variable importance. In the darkness of bondage, it was his light; in the morn of his freedom, it was his darkness; but as the day advances, and he is being gradually lifted up into a higher life, it is becoming not only his proud heritage, but a support, and powerful inspiration. The songs of the slave were his sweet consolation and his messages to Heaven, bearing sorrow, pain, joy, prayer, and adoration. Undisturbed and unafraid, he could always unburden his heart in these simple songs pregnant with faith, hope, and love. The man, though a slave, produced the song, and the song, in turn, produced a better man. The slave is perennially praised for his perfect devotion. Some attribute it to one cause, some to another. Some even go so far as to attribute it to the influence of the system of slavery, but more than any other cause, the retroactive power of his own music influenced this character of the slave. What else could he be who had such ideals ever before him? How could a man be base who looked ever to the hills? Could a man cherish the idea of rapine whose soul was ever singing these songs of love, patience and God? Neither African heathenism nor American sla�very could wholly extinguish that spark of idealism, set aglow by his Creator. This idealism, expressed in terms so beautiful and strong grew in power, and the possessor found himself irresistibly drawn and willingly striving to attain unto it. The creator of these songs had now become the creature of his own creation.
Naturally enough, when the Negro found himself free, he literally put his past behind him. It was his determination that as far as within him lay, not one single reminder of that black past should mar his future. So away went all these reminders into the "abyss of oblivion."
His music was one of these reminders and as sweet as it was to him, as much as it had helped him, it, too, must go, for it was a








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