Folk Song Of The American Negro - Online Book

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left their all save their song. This they brought, because the All-wise knew the New World had great need of it. The New World was henceforth to be their home and they could speak the language, live the life, and worship the God of the New World, but in their own peculiar melody they would express their new world experiences. From that time their song began a subtle and gradual change from African to American.
The evolution of African to American song correctly indicates the corresponding evolution in the African himself. The process was thorough, and both singer and song became American. In propor�tion as the life of the New World was above that of Africa, in pro�portion as the light of this New World was brighter than the dim haziness of the dark continent, in that same proportion is this new song brighter and more spiritual. Loftier things are treated with a more blazing religious fervor.
The religion of the Negro has long been a subject of much diverse criticism. It has even been mocked and jeered. Church services have been sources of mirthful entertainment. Philosophers and learned men have pointed to the Negro's religious outbursts, his shoutings and rejoicings as marks of ignorance, superstition and heathenism. Most assuredly these are not the most approved methods of worship, nor do they measure up to the ideals of the highly cultured, but they at least have an explanation which might lead to a better under�standing, and sometimes a better understanding leads to a higher respect.
Whatever else the Creator has given to other children, He has given to the African a heart as responsive to the forces of life as an eolian harp to the evening's zephyrs. His pains are poignant, his joys are ecstatic. He is either on the mountain top or deep down in the valley. The plains make no strong appeal to him. This heart of the African is of a distinctly religious nature, expressing itself in building houses of worship, and in the fullest enjoyment of devo�tion. The fact that worship is man's duty does not always appeal to him. Indeed, the joy and happiness of it have almost effaced the idea of duty. He worships not so much because he ought, as because he loves to worship.
Moreover, the religion of the God we worship makes its strongest appeal to the burden bearers of the world. "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest," has always