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South Carolina State Music

The Spiritual   Adopted: June 11, 1999

Senate Bill No. 177 (SB177) was introduced and read in the South Carolina State Senate, for the first time, on January 1, 1999.

A companion bill, House Bill No. 3421 (HB3421) was introduced in the South Carolina House of Representatives in February of 1999, but it languished in the House Committee on Judiciary while SB177 was passed in the Senate, then the House, and signed into law by Governor James Hodges on June 11, 1999.

A BILL

TO AMEND ARTICLE 9, CHAPTER 1, TITLE 1 OF THE CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO STATE EMBLEMS, PLEDGES TO THE STATE, AND OFFICIAL OBSERVANCES, BY ADDING SECTION 1-1-687 SO AS TO DESIGNATE THE "SPIRITUAL" AS THE OFFICIAL MUSIC OF THE STATE.

Amend Title To Conform

Whereas, the spiritual is a song originating in the slave era that deals primarily with a religious or sacred theme; and

Whereas, it is proper to make the spiritual the official South Carolina music because Charleston was a major port of entry for slaves in North America; and

Whereas, much of this music originated along the coastal regions of South Carolina; and

Whereas, the spiritual was passed down orally for many years and first committed to writing in South Carolina on St. Helena Island by a freed black woman and a white Union Army officer during the Civil War; and

Whereas, the publication of an 1867 book on slave songs was the result of the work done by an educational mission on the Port Royal islands in 1861; and

Whereas, the earliest known spirituals were taken from passages of the Bible; and

Whereas, some well-known examples of spirituals are "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot", "Steal Away to Jesus", "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen", "Roll, Jordan, Roll", "Wade in the Water", "Come by Here Lord, Come by Here", "This Little Light of Mine", "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child", "Go Down, Moses", "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands", and "Follow the Drinking Gourd"; and

Whereas, Booker T. Washington probably best described spirituals as "... the spontaneous outbursts of intense religious fervor... having their origin chiefly in the camp meetings, the revivals and in other religious gatherings ... the music of these songs goes to the heart because it comes from the heart..."; and

Whereas, those South Carolinians who perform the "Gullah Shout" state that spirituals are key to getting the rhythm for the "Shout"; and

Whereas, in old spirituals style, a leader improvises the text, time, and melody and other singers respond by repeating short phrases, and this traditional West African singing style is referred to as leader-chorus or call-and-response; and

Whereas, the legacy of spirituals is still evident in African-American communities where the "talking back" or call and response heard among churchgoers comes directly from slave songs and spirituals; and

Whereas, for many South Carolina citizens, the spirituals were the first songs they learned; and

Whereas, singing a spiritual is one way of honoring one's past and lineage; and

Whereas, although spirituals are not literature, the Norton Anthology of African American Literature signaled their importance by opening up the anthology with a chapter entitled "The Vernacular Tradition" and spirituals are the first discussed oral tradition of black expression; and

Whereas, the origin and development of the spiritual is deeply rooted in this State; and

Whereas, all South Carolinians, from the Piedmont to the Lowcountry and from the Savannah River to the Pee Dee, love to sing spirituals; and

Whereas, all South Carolinians have a desire to recognize this unique and important part of the history, culture, and heritage that we proudly proclaim is South Carolina. Now, therefore,

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:

SECTION 1. The 1976 Code is amended by adding:

"Section 1-1-688. The spiritual is the official music of the State."

SECTION 2. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.

----XX----

In 2007, the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives approved resolutions honoring African-American spirituals a national treasure.


Sources...

State of South Carolina. South Carolina Code of Laws. Columbia: State of South Carolina, 2011. Web. 31 May 2011. <http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/statmast.htm>.
Shearer, Benjamin F. and Barbara S. State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols: A Historical Guide Third Edition, Revised and Expanded. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 3 Sub edition, 2001.


Additional Information

Sweet Chariot: the story of the spirituals: A multidisciplinary online curriculum by The Spirituals Project at the University of Denver.

negrospirituals.com: This site is devoted to traditional African American spirituals, and some information is given about the early Gospel songs.

Charleston Symphony Orchestra (CSO) Spiritual Ensemble: The CSO Spiritual Ensemble strives to honor the devout musical tradition that African-tAmericans formed as slaves after arriving in this country and in particular its relevant history here in the South Carolina Lowcountry.

The Plantation Singers: Website of the Plantation Singers, Charleston, South Carolina.

More symbols & emblems: Complete list of official South Carolina state symbols from NETSTATE.COM.

The Books of the American Negro Spirituals

The Books of the American Negro Spirituals, by James Weldon Johnson, J. Rosamond Johnson. 384 pages. Publisher: Da Capo Press (December 3, 2002) In two elegant and masterly prefaces, James Weldon Johnson discusses the origin and history of more than 120 of the most significant spirituals known. Favorites like "Swing Low Sweet Chariot," "Deep River," and "Go Down, Moses" are arranged for voice and piano by his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, and considered within their African tradition.

James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) is recognized alongside W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington as one of the most respected interpreters of the black experience. Composer J. Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954) was an authority on Negro spirituals.

Wade In The Water, Vol.1 (African American Spirituals): The Concert Tradition
African American
Spirituals

Wade In The Water, Vol.1 (African American Spirituals): The Concert Tradition, Smithsonian Folkways. Combining African and European performance styles, spirituals have served to steady and exalt African Americans and enrich the wider society as well. Features The Florida A&M Concert Choir, The Howard Universtiy Chamber Choir, and The Fisk Jubilee Singers. 65 minutes.