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"S" is for Spirituals

South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"S" is for Spirituals. With both sacred and secular influences, spirituals reflect the strong interplay between African American cultural traditions and those of European Americans. Scots-Irish in the backcountry and English and French settlers on the coast introduced a rich variety of church hymnody. Slaves and freedman introduced West African music styles. One of the primary focuses of both black and white spiritual music rests with an emphasis on group participation and improvisation. Spiritual music has many stylistic variations: three- and four-part harmony, shape note, common meter hymn choir, call and response, and praise house are all a part of this foundation. This music is a highly emotional expression that carries intense personal and collective meaning. Spirituals whether shape-note or praise-house, have deep roots in the religious, social, and economic history of South Carolina.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.