Unit 3: African-American Spirituals and Gospel with Huxsie
African-American spirituals originated in the enslaved peoples’ living quarters of the American south, and are sacred songs with lyrics based on stories from the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible. Spirituals are the musical product of West African influences and practices, as well as hymns sung in Anglo-American churches. While spirituals were sung for worship, they were an important part of all aspects of life, and were sung during celebrations, as work songs, as lullabies, and were used as code songs to signal escape plans. After the Civil War, spirituals began to be written down and arranged for soloists, choirs, and instrumentalists, and eventually laid the foundation for other genres of music, including gospel and R&B.
A native of Savannah, Huxsie Scott has been singing jazz, blues, and gospel for over 40 years. She has appeared on stage with such jazz greats as the late Lionel Hampton and McCoy Tyner, and was the original vocalist for the Savannah Jazz Orchestra. Huxsie was inducted into the Savannah Tribune Gospel Hall of Fame in 2004, and the Coastal Jazz Association’s Hall of Fame in 2005. This is her third appearance with Musical Explorers.
Lesson 1: Exploring “Follow The Drinking Gourd”
Students learn to sing “Follow the Drinking Gourd” and explore the hidden meaning of the song and the code found in the lyrics.
Go to Lesson 1: Exploring “Follow the Drinking Gourd” →
Lesson 2: Learning “This Train is Bound for Glory”
Students explore the meaning of the song, and learn musical opposites of dynamics and tempo.
Go to Lesson 2: Learning “This Train Is Bound For Glory” →
Additional Teaching Resources:
- The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center has a number of lesson plans and classroom resources available online for grades K-12.
- “Singing for Justice: Following the Musical Journey of ‘This Little Light of Mine’” Smithsonian Folkways Recordings has a number of lesson plans designed around the traditional and folk music of North America.
- South Carolina ETV’s Education Media Portal includes GullahNet, an interactive learning site about Gullah traditions, music, and language. The portal includes an activity where students must decode a spiritual to help two slaves escape on the Underground Railroad.