Slave songs, also called spirituals, were songs of sorrow and hope, created by the slaves.
They contained words or messages about their longing for freedom or their coming reward in heaven for their suffering on earth, as this example demonstrates:
Nobody knows de trouble I see Nobody knows but Jesus
Nobody knows de trouble I see Glory, Hallelujah
Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down, Oh yes Lord
Sometimes I’m almos’ to de groun, Oh yes Lord
Although you see me goin’long so, Oh yes Lord
I have my trials here below, Oh yes Lord.
Some spirituals were a means of communication. Slaves used lyrics to notify one another of a secret gathering:
I take my text in Matthew, and by Revelation,
I know you by your garment. Dere’s a meeting here tonight, Dere’s a meeting here tonight.
Songs were also used to warn workers of an approaching master or overseer coming to check on them:
Sister, carry de news on, Master’s in de field;
Sister, carry de news on, Master’s in de field.