And, unfortunately, the experience of slaves during this period had an incalculable influence on this style of music. The demeaning and devastating impact that slavery had on generations of African-Americans is well documented, but many may not realize how much it influenced the formation of music on the continent. Most of this influence came when Christianity became prominent among slaves and later freed former slaves and the ways it mixed with their traditional African religion.

Black slaves attend a church service on a South Carolina plantation, 1856. Plantation owners encouraged their slaves to become Christians and taught them passages from the Bible about being obedient to their masters. Slaves, of course, preferred stories like Moses leading the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt.


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