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On slave spirituals

Summary

Albert J. Raboteau explains the significance of of a communal practice.

Summary

Albert J. Raboteau explains the significance of of a communal practice.

Transcript

The songs … spirituals and religious songs of the slaves were extremely important, and we need to remember, recognise that these were not just sung, but they were actually danced, in an African style of dancing called the ring shout, in which the slaves would move around in a circle while they were singing. And the ring shout would move them into a kind of ecstasy in which time and distance would disappear, and they actually would be re-enacting the story of Exodus, they would actually be re-enacting Moses on Mount Pisgah, looking out and seeing the Promised Land. So when King says, “I’ve been to the Promised Land, looked out, and seen that we as a people will get there some day”, he’s actually quoting – whether he knew it or not – an experience that was prominent among the slaves themselves in which time and distance disappeared and they actually became the people that they were singing about.