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Public Statements

Recognizing the African Spiritual as a National Treasure

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my strong support for H. Res. 120, which recognizes the African American spiritual as a national treasure. The African American spiritual is both an expression of culture and faith, and a symbol of the path to triumph in our democracy.

The African American spiritual originated with many cultures in Africa, and became one of the few forms of expression that the African slaves were able to maintain while held in bondage in America. The spirituals not only served to uplift, but also served as a secret code to direct those enslaved to freedom. Lyrics from songs like ``Steal Away (to Jesus)' and ``Wade in the Water' were guides for those who planned to escape and served as instructions to allow those escaping to avoid being traced by slave catchers. Spirituals such as ``Follow the Drinking Gourd' were also means of secretly communicating maps and directions for escaping slaves to reach the network of the Underground Railroad. After the abolition of slavery in the United States in 1865, the African American spiritual remained an important expression of culture, faith, and social justice, especially during the Civil Rights movements across the Nation in the 1950s and 1960s.

And so today, also in honor of Black History Month, I ask my colleagues to join me in celebrating the African American spiritual and the legacy left to us by those who fought for freedom and rights in this country for all citizens. The African American spiritual is not only testimony of history, but is a part of our national heritage.



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