Our Latest Spiritual Sung in Worship
Oh, I Woke Up This Morning
Why Reparations for Negro Spirituals?
The creators of Negro Spirituals did not receive compensation for their works, adding to the many other acts of trans-generational economic marginalization heaped on them and their communities.
Additionally, when majority-white congregations perform Spirituals, it can be an act of “cultural misappropriation.” Virtually all modern music is a blend of many cultures, but if music is wrested from members of marginalized cultures, and if the original meanings of the music are casually ignored or mocked, these blends take on a hurtful, oppressive element. Paying reparations for the performance of these Spirituals is a drop in the bucket, but it’s a start to rectifying the harm.
Paying reparations for the destructive legacy of enslavement is a controversial topic in the USA, but it shouldn’t be. We need to make whole what we, as a nation, broke. Only then can we move forward in right relationship with each other. Reparations are not charity – they are the repayment of a moral and humanitarian debt that human beings and institutions owe to one another, enabling us to move forward together.
How the Spiritual Reparations Project works
- Each time a spiritual is sung in worship, either by the congregation as a whole or by a vocal ensemble or choir, a reparations basket is placed in the sanctuary on the hymnal bookcase in the rear of the room. Attendees are free to donate to the reparations fund by placing cash or checks into this special basket, or by making a donation on the online Realm Giving Form (select “Music-Reparations” as the Fund in the dropdown field). Our most recent Spiritual(s) sung in worship is (are):
- Our Spirituals Reparations Team is Michael Adcock (Director of Music Ministry), Jenny Afkinich, Laurie Coltri, John Harris, Pam Henry, and Glennor Shirley. Its next task is to select and contact a recipient organization. Funds will be given to recipients who can best support repairing past harm – for example, one church sends funds to an educational foundation that supports Black musicians. Think of it as similar to a past-due royalty payment to the descendants of the music’s creators.
- In worship, some information about the origins and original meanings of the song is made available, so that we can better respect the originators of these songs, those contemporaries who sang them, and the descendants of these persons.
- We’re also keeping an archive of the works we’ve sung. Please feel free to browse the archive, below, to learn more about this sacred music.
You and the Spiritual Reparations Project
Your decision about whether to contribute, and how much to put in the basket, is an opportunity to ponder what you receive from hearing or singing these wonderful songs, as well as your relationship to White Supremacy culture. And it is a chance to start building your own muscle of reparative justice-making. We hope that you will not make payment for reparations a performative act of signaling your virtue. Let it instead be a private personal struggle on your spiritual journey, an act of joy and healing, and one small step in our larger collective action to dismantle a racist system.
Questions About the Project
About the image behind this page title: This image is a wall mural painted by a Cambridge, Maryland artist, Nancy Webb, for the Harriet Tubman Organization. It can be seen at the organization’s museum and education center at 424 Race Street, Cambridge, Maryland 21613. On the web, the mural is cropped to fit the space available.
Archive of Spirituals Performed (Alphabetical Order)
Down By the Riverside
This song has roots back to the American Civil War, and was first recorded by the… DETAILS
While perhaps not technically a true spiritual, "Dry Bones" has been handed down to us from… DETAILS
I'm On My Way
STLT #116 This is another Freedom song derived from or patterned after a gospel song, which… DETAILS
Oh, I Woke Up This Morning
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" is one of the most treasured and widely-recognized African-American spirituals. It was… DETAILS
This Little Light of Mine
Although the origins of this song are a bit cloudy, this Gospel-based spiritual (born as a… DETAILS