Christian

Faith in God During American Slavery

African-American slaves wrote many heartfelt songs, often referred to as Negro Spirituals. It is noteworthy that the people who enslaved and and oppressed them are the same people who introduced them to Christianity.

One would think these slaves wouldn’t be open to hearing about Jesus from their oppressor, but Jesus opened their hearts to believe the Good News. That’s the only plausible explanation for it.

The Bible says of Lydia, ” The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” Acts 16:14.

Yes, He can do that, even under the most desperate and cruel circumstances. Just as the Lord opened the heart of Lydia, He opened their hearts as well.

One of my favorite hymns is Give Me Jesus. The words are simple, yet they are deeply moving. I was not surprised to find out it is an African-American spiritual, written by slaves looking to our Lord and Savior for deliverance. Just as He brought deliverance to Israel through the leadership of Moses, they believed He would deliver them from slavery. And He did.

In the morning when I rise,
In the morning when I rise,
In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.
Give me Jesus, give me Jesus,
You may have all this world,
Give me Jesus.

I can imagine these desperate Christians singing these words from their heart, looking for deliverance when Jesus comes to take them home. This exemplifies loving God with all your heart and soul, strength, and mind.

When I come to die
When I come to die
Oh, when I come to die
Give me Jesus

Many of the spirituals and songs were birthed out of the trials and struggles of those in slavery. “Give Me Jesus” is an excellent example of how the victims of American slavery were able to express in song God’s presence and care in the midst of heartache and pain.

“Give Me Jesus” is but one of many spirituals written during slavery with no known composer or text writer.  “Persons in slavery, deprived and besieged in this life, might have nothing earthly to hold on to. But, if they were Christians, they believed they had an inheritance in God” (Warren, 1997, 37). 

The tune GIVE ME JESUS, written by African-American slaves, appears in nineteen hymnal collections and supplements today.

Dear Lord, May we cling to you, seek you, and worship you with the same devotion and love as our brothers and sisters in Christ who cried out to you in their pain and trusted you in the midst of cruelty and injustice. Forgive us for our petty complaints and help us to be thankful for all our many blessings. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

With Love, 

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This Is My Journey Unscripted.

Click this link to learn more about Jesus: Who Is Jesus?

All Scriptures are NIV unless otherwise noted.

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Bibliography

Costen, Melva Wilson. African American Christian Worship, 2nd Edition. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2007

Warren, Gwendolin Sims, Ev’ry Time I Feel the Spirit: 101 Best-Loved Psalms, Gospel Hymns, and Spiritual Songs of the African-American Church. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1997.

http://www.negrospirituals.com/singers.htm