Degree Year


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Negro, Spirituals, Christianity, American, Religion, Culture


In this thesis the writer has endeavored to treat the distinctive religion of the American Negroes so as to make evident, as far as he is able, the circumstances of its origin, its early development, the changes which have conditioned it, the theology in which it has been formulated, and the psychological motives which have been expressed in it. This study is made with the following specific objectives in view:

1. To study the Negro Spirituals as a body of musical literature in which the Negroes' religion prior to 1861 is embodied.

2. To point out the most outstanding features of the religion of the West Africans, in order to see to what extent they revealed themselves in the religion of the Spirituals.

3. To make a detailed study of the religious instruction received by the Negroes from 1619 to 1861 in order to see what characteristics they borrowed from American Christianity.

4. To describe the theology of the Negroes' religion as revealed in the Spirituals.

5. To point out the underlying psychological effects of the revivalists worship upon the Negroes' religion.

My thesis is that the Negroes' religion is not African, but American, a religion that was created by their contact with Christianity in America. In so doing, I place great emphasis upon the fact that the Negroes were secured in Africa and dispersed in America in such a way to break the continuity of their cultural heritage. If anything of the African remained, it was their emotional tone and culture rather than their religious conceptions.

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