Author Information

Mercedes Reid


Too often we define freedom as the physical relief from restraint. In doing this, we ignore the depths of what freedom can be. When enslaved people sang their spirituals, they were creating a place for themselves outside of their physical surroundings. In their music they were able to exist in a place where they relied on their faith and the promise of freedom made to them by God. Many scholars focus in on what the lyrics could mean instead of focusing on what the songs meant to enslaved people. In this paper I use the spirituals themselves along with the words of Frederick Douglass and various scholars to help illustrate how people were able to use the music to relieve the chains of slavery.

Note on the Author

Mercedes Reid is a junior majoring in English and Secondary Education. This research project was completed in the fall of 2020 under the mentorship of Dr. Emily Field (African American Studies) and made possible with funding provided by an Honors Program semester grant. Mercedes took a course with Dr. Field and immediately thereafter picked up the African American Studies Minor.

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