According To Booker T. Washington, Plantation Songs Have Nothing To Do With Religious Fervor
In 1898, civil rights leader Booker T. Washington presented a speech at Madison Square Garden in which he proposed a solution for the race problem in the United States. Washington emphasized the importance of cultivating the intellect of African Americans, and he argued that morality and hard work, rather than social protest, were the keys to achieving racial justice.
However, when it came to plantation songs, Washington held a different opinion. According to Washington, these songs were not a product of religious fervor. In fact, Washington maintained that plantation songs had nothing to do with religion. He stated that “these songs, often referred to as ‘spirituals’, were not the spontaneous outbursts of intense religious fervor…they were in reality, a method through which the slaves could express their sorrows and hardships.” Thus, Washington argued that plantation songs were not religious in nature, but rather a way for slaves to express their feelings of oppression.
Washington’s opinion has been supported by historians and other scholars. For example, South Carolina historian Lawrence S. Rowland has argued that plantation songs were not intended as religious hymns, but rather as a reflection of the suffering and repression of the slaves. Similarly, Professor of English and Women’s Studies, Stesha Brandon, has also asserted that plantation songs “were not religious hymns, but a form of social criticism.”
These views provide a clear insight into Washington’s thinking on plantation songs and spirituals. He believed that these songs had nothing to do with religious fervor, but rather were a form of expression for the slaves. This view of plantation songs has been shared by many historians and scholars, who have further cemented Washington’s opinion that plantation songs have no relation to religious fervor.