Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

George F. Devine

Committee Members

Donald M. Pederson


As in other folk art, White spiritual music has not been welI-documented. In this particular case, there does not even exist a clear definition of this somewhat unknown and often misunderstood phenomenon.

The intent of this thesis is to present and justify a comprehensive definition of White spiritual music. To arrive at this goal, a two-fold approach was taken. The first chapter of the thesis does not deal precisely with White spiritual music, but rather with related and complementary concepts which are more familiar to the average person. This writer feels that what one may know or think he knows about the items discussed in Chapter One can often lead to assumed, but not necessarily correct, knowledge of White spiritual music.

The primary thrust of Chapter II is a musical one -- what are the scholarly musical ramifications of the White spirituals? White spiritual music was found to be a deliberate departure from established religious and musical practice of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Its golden age, so to speak, was roughly 1850-1900, and activity was concentrated in the southeastern United States. White spiritual music has historic and stylistic parallels with Negro spiritual music. Chapter II deals only with white spiritual music as a single musical entity. Textual considerations are avoided as being outside the scope of this thesis.

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