Author (Your Name)

Kate Conklin, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Colby Access Only)


Colby College. English Dept.


Cedric Brant


This project seeks to outline the shared artistic and musical experience of the African-American people through an exploration of the music and literature which has emerged in the African-American tradition. The music and literature of the culture come out of both the African and Anglo traditions, beginning in 1619 with the first slave trade from Africa to the United States. The first of the dominant African-American musical forms to emerge in the United States were spiritual and gospel, the development and intersection of which this paper will trace. Both the spiritual and gospel forms and the call-and-response and the ring shout traits were central to African-American culture, and remain so, as echoed by contemporary black novelists and playwrights including Maya Angelou, Zora Neale Hurston, Gayl Jones, Toni Morrison, and August Wilson. African-American authors have written about, relied on, and incorporated certain African and African-American musical elements into their work, often elaborating on how music influences their characters' lives. The subjects of the novels and songs by African-American artists reflect the lives of the artists themselves: like many of their subjects, black artists have grown up in a world in which music, song, dance, and celebration are both community and individual undertakings. This paper will examine the musical history of the African-American people, merging a historical discussion with an examination of contemporary literature which confirms that music from both Africa and the United States is central to the black life experience in the United States.


Full-text access is restricted to Colby College.


spiritual, gospel, culture