Wrestle On, Jacob

by | Aug 24, 2021

Learning from Antebellum Spirituals about the Defiant Faith of the Hebrew Bible


Is wrestling with God like Jacob and arguing with him a legitimate, biblically endorsed way to respond to God in the midst of suffering? And, if so, what does that look like? The spirituals sung by enslaved African Americans give us a powerful example, which can transform the way we understand the Bible and provide hope to those facing suffering and oppression today.

Learning from My Experience

Before we get to the spirituals, let me explain what inspired me, as a white biblical scholar, to study them in order to understand the Bible better. I wrote my PhD dissertation on the book of Job. For three years, I read everything I could about how to interpret the book and thought long and hard about what it meant. Then, three years after I completed my PhD, I injured my back. The nerve pain seared my left side from my lower back to my toes. I had never felt anything like it. And it lasted not just for weeks or months, but more than two years. More difficult than the pain was the psychological process of rewriting my self-narrative. No longer could I be the guy who loved to go for a run, wrestle with his kids on the floor, or help a friend move. I was someone else; someone with new limitations; someone newly dependent on the help of others. Through those years of suffering, I learned more about Job than those earlier years of study. I could now see and relate with aspects of Job’s physical, psychological, and spiritual suffering that all those books and articles I read about the text had never revealed to me. I could resonate with the soul-rending challenge Job faced to maintain faith in a God who felt absent. His protests made sense, while his refusal to follow his friends’ advice to sacrifice his integrity and bargain with God became more impressive.

Among the many lessons I learned from my two-year education in pain was that one’s life experience inevitably shapes one’s interpretation of the Bible (and everything else). The meaning of the text may not change, but one’s ability to perceive features of that meaning could be transformed by the new perspective such experiences provided as former blind spots were illuminated and new panoramas of significance opened. I also realized that I was neither capable (nor, if I were honest, willing) to have the range of experiences necessary to resonate fully with the meaning of a text like Job, which bores relentlessly into the dark recesses of suffering. But, at the same time, I learned that sharing the lessons of my suffering (as I am now) provided a type of consolation through dignifying what I had endured by drawing some good from it.

Answering the Question of Suffering by Listening to Those Who Have Suffered

This brings us to the question that attracted me to the book of Job in the first place, which my own battle with chronic pain had only made more urgent: What is the proper response to suffering? Two competing acceptable responses to God in the face of injustice emerge in the Old Testament. The first, pious submission, is exemplified in Abraham’s unquestioning obedience to God’s command to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22) and Job’s declaration amidst his disastrous affliction: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).1 The second response is defiant protest. Abraham also provides a tempered example of this response when he responds to God’s plan to destroy the entire city of Sodom with an accusation blunted with a question mark: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25). But Job sharpens that question mark into a dagger in his dispute with God, as he demands, “Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands and favor the schemes of the wicked?” (Job 10:3). Which of these responses, submission or protest, is more appropriate? Western interpretation has long veered between either downplaying the doubts these texts express or celebrating their skeptical defiance. Across the history of interpretation, for example, Christian interpreters have consistently accused Job of some “sin,” in light of his protests against God.2 However, some recent biblical interpreters, while strongly endorsing Job’s defiance, refrain from attributing any reconciliation between him and God. 3

“There is much we can learn from the unique perspectives that varied life experiences have given different readers of the Bible.”

Western readers in both church and academy may have misunderstood the dynamics of biblical responses to suffering, emphasizing defiance over faith or vice versa, because they have not faced the oppression that forges faith and defiance together. They have been spared the experience of suffering that would provide this important perspective on these texts. It is easy to submissively trust God if you have not faced real suffering, and it is easy to defiantly challenge God if the oppression you have faced is not so great that you believe you can handle it without God’s help (particularly if it is someone else’s suffering and not your own). The Bible’s integration of faith and protest emerges from the type of intense suffering that inspires a search for an overcoming hope through a God great enough to deliver, who, therefore, also may receive complaint when oppression endures. In this time of increasing polarization in our world, in which people are tempted to retreat into their separate cultural enclaves, listening sympathetically to those who bring a different perspective to interpreting the Bible is particularly valuable. There is much we can learn from the unique perspectives that varied life experiences have given different readers of the Bible. As Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza writes, “What we see depends on where we stand.” 4 Given the history of racial injustice in our nation, W.E.B. Du Bois claims there is special value in learning across the color-line. He writes,

The future of the South depends on the ability of the representatives of these opposing views to see and appreciate and sympathize with each other’s position.… Only by a union of intelligence and sympathy across the color-line in this critical period of the Republic shall justice and right triumph.5

Consider, for example, Psalm 137, with its blessing on those who dash Babylonian infants against rocks (v. 9). Interpreters have long attempted to allegorize away the violence of this passage by applying this anger to abstract concepts, such as sin. For those modern biblical interpreters who enjoy the privileges of not belonging to oppressed people groups, ignoring this longing of the oppressed for their oppressors to receive divine judgment may be a self-interested defense mechanism. 6 As Walter Brueggemann writes, “It is not likely that elites ever needed to pray in this way.” 7 However, Frederick Douglass identified the plight of the enslaved with that of the exiled Israelites in Psalm 137 in his famous speech, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro,” though he stopped short of citing its violent final verse.8

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Listening to the voices of those, like enslaved African Americans, who empathize with the oppression to which these biblical texts are responding can recover what those, like myself, who share the dominant Western interpretive perspective have missed. Standing in the dominant position in society may have blinded us to the ways that faith and protest may be integrated to create a more durable hope. However, enslaved African Americans, who saw in Israelite experience a context of oppression similar to their own, offer an interpretive framework through which to understand these texts as both defiant and faithful. One way we can dignify the suffering they endured is to learn from it. The perspective these enslaved readers bring to the text highlights the genius of the Israelites’ faith: how they wove both responses to suffering—faith and defiance—into one profound paradox, understanding themselves as those who wrestle with God (Genesis 32:24–28). As William Becker observes, “Struggle is a central and essential dimension of the spiritual life as that is understood within the black American tradition—and also within the biblical tradition, both Jewish and Christian.”

The Spirituals: A Hermeneutic of Resistance

The spirituals, in particular, testify to a hermeneutic of resistance that finds “the growing edge of hope in the midst of the most barren and most tragic circumstances.” 10 And yet, these songs are subjected to the same interpretive false dichotomy that distorts biblical interpretation. Some argue that the spirituals were primarily an escape into other-worldly dreams that perpetuated slavery, 11 while others consider them thinly veiled calls for rebellion. 12 However, when compared with the biblical precedent they followed, it becomes evident that they fused both ideas into a stronger theological alloy of piety and protest. 13

The spirituals highlight a biblical tradition of defiant faith in which they participated. Together with the heroes of Israelite faith before them—Abraham (Genesis 18), Jacob (Genesis 32), Moses (Exodus 32), Job, the psalmists, and the prophets—they demonstrate that faith may be defiant and protest pious. These biblical figures question God’s justice in their current experience precisely because they believe that God is good, powerful, and loving enough to do what is just. Similarly, for enslaved African Americans, “Questioning God’s actions … required an a priori understanding of God and God’s justice.” 14 The deity frequently responds favorably to the protests of the biblical heroes, relenting or restoring as they request (e.g., Genesis 18:26–32; 32:28; Exodus 32:14; Job 42:7), and thereby offering hope to those enduring the ravages of slavery.

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Enslaved African Americans therefore identified with the Israelites. “They were like the Israelites, and the Israelites were like them,” Callahan writes, “to the extent that both were an enslaved people pleading with God to provide a way out.” 15 “It was in the spirituals, above all,” Albert Raboteau observes, “that the characters, themes, and lessons of the Bible became dramatically real and took on special meaning for the slaves.” Therefore, the spirituals are “shot through with biblical allusions,” since “the Bible was the chief source of material for the lines of these songs.” 16 As “Gimme Dat Ol’-Time Religion” proclaims, “It was good for the Hebrew children, An it’s good enough for me.” 17 Like the Israelites, those who sung these spirituals were not willing to concede the reality of faith to those who exclusively associated it with unquestioning submission, nor the reality of life to those who succumbed to doubt or hope deferred.

The similarity of the response to suffering found in a significant number of spirituals makes them an illuminating comparison for biblical texts that wrestle with God. But the spirituals also reflect the ways their authors “interpreted the Bible in light of their experiences.” 18 Either way, comparing these reflections on suffering creates a dialogue between the texts in which both collections speak in new ways about their meaning. Some of the light the spirituals shine on the meaning of the Bible reflects back on the spirituals themselves. The way enslaved African Americans understood the Bible clarifies its meaning for us, and once we have seen the similarity between the spirituals and this biblical tradition of defiant faith, we will be better able to appreciate the interweaving of defiance and faith in the spirituals themselves.


“The way enslaved African Americans understood the Bible clarifies its meaning for us, and once we have seen the similarity between the spirituals and this biblical tradition of defiant faith, we will be better able to appreciate the interweaving of defiance and faith in the spirituals themselves.”


Wrestling with God in the Spirituals

The spiritual “Wrestle On, Jacob” 19 presents “a paean of hopeful strife,” as Du Bois puts it, in which enslaved people sang “I will not let you go, my Lord” and explicitly associated their spiritual struggles with the Israelite patriarch in the moment he earned the name “wrestles with God” for his people. 20 The second verse of “I Saw the Beam in my Sister’s Eye” appropriates the story of Jacob’s wrestling even more directly:

And I had a mighty battle like-a Jacob and de angel,
Jacob time of old;
I didn’t ‘tend to lef’ ‘em go
Till Jesus bless my soul. 21

Many other songs articulate the type of spiritual wrestling match that these ones explicitly reference. In “Don’t leave me, Lord Don’t leave me behin’,” Howard Thurman hears, “desolation, fear, loneliness, but hope, at once desperate and profound!” 22 The spirituals convey this profound desperate hope in three ways that are similar to and potentially draw upon the biblical tradition of defiant faith: they lament with the psalmists, express longing for death, and question God’s justice.

 

Lamenting with the Psalmists

First, lamenting with the psalmists, enslaved African Americans echoed their cries: “My Father, How Long?” 23 “Lord, Remember Me” 24 and “Keep Me f’om Sinkin’ Down,” 25 as they also mournfully described the trouble they had seen, including physical and psychological trauma, isolation, and impending death. 26 However, in contrast to the psalmic laments’ graphic and detailed descriptions of affliction, the spirituals are generally vague, likely reflecting fear of their enslavers overhearing their complaints. 27

Complaints regarding isolation from family and friends, evident in several psalmic laments (e.g., Psalm 25:16, 42–43; 102:6–7) and Job (e.g., 19:13–19), also appear in spirituals, such as “I Must Walk My Lonesome Valley,” 28 “Dis Ole World Is Er Mean World,” “All the Friend I Had Dead en Gone,” and, “Sometime I Feel Like a Motherless Chile.” 29 Further, spirituals, such as “I’m in Trouble” 30 and “I’m A-Trouble in De Mind” 31 end, like Psalms 39 and 88, in unresolved despair. 32 However, the spirituals, like the psalms, more frequently conclude with hope.

 

Longing for Death

Second, some spirituals, driven by extreme anguish, actually go beyond the lament psalms by wishing for nonexistence. One version of “Sometime I Feel Like a Motherless Chile” includes the line “Sometimes I wish dat I nebhah been bawned.” 33 Another spiritual repeats the refrain, “I wish I never was born!” after verses that lament, “Lord, how come me here?” “There ain’t no freedom here, Lord,” “They treat me so mean here, Lord,” and “They sold my children away, Lord.” 32
Yet another wails:

Wish I’d died when I was a baby,
O Lord rock a’ jubilee,
Wish I’d died. 35

Job (3:1–26) and Jeremiah (20:14–18) likewise curse the days of their birth in their spiritual wrestling matches with God, and both Job (7:15) and Jonah (4:3, 8–9) employ death-wishes to express their displeasure with God’s actions. Job even expands his curse of the day of his birth into a “counter-cosmic incantation” that aims to unmake creation itself. 36 Similarly, one spiritual proclaims, “Great God, then, if I had-a my way… I’d tear this building down.” 37 But it is doubtful either Job or the singers of this spiritual desire the end of their lives or the destruction of the world. Rather, they are using this imagery rhetorically to convey to God the intensity of their despair and appeal to him to intervene to make things right.

The argumentative purpose of this rhetorical device changes the way we read a spiritual such as “O Freedom,” which declares,

An’ befo’ I’d be a slave,
I’ll be buried in my grave,
An’ go home to my Lord an’ be free. 38

Thurman claims this song expresses a longing for “release in death,” but a preference for the grave over slavery could also be intended to motivate God to intervene in the present. In fact, as Cheryl Kirk-Duggan observes, Psalm 88, which also combines a longing for freedom (v. 8) with the threat of the grave (v. 5, 10), may have influenced “O Freedom.” The psalmist clearly uses the looming grave to attempt to persuade God to provide deliverance in his life, since he will be unable to praise God’s steadfast love if God abandons him to death (v. 11). 39

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Questioning God’s Justice

Finally, just as the dialogue between the spirituals and the Hebrew Bible supports the coexistence of faith and defiance in Israel’s sacred texts, it underscores the defiance intertwined with the spirituals’ expressions of faith. Cone finds a close correspondence between enslaved African Americans’ anguished responses to suffering and biblical ones in texts such as Habakkuk and Job, but he wonders why the spirituals lack the “direct attacks upon God” found in those books. 40 His explanation is two-fold. First, enslaved people did express this questioning, just in other forms, such as in the so-called seculars or in public addresses from preachers, like Daniel Payne, on the evils of slavery. Second, Cone argues, “black slaves did not perceive the source of their oppressed condition as being ordained by God or Jesus Christ.” 41 And yet, on the next page, he claims, “The theological assumption of black slave religion as expressed in the spirituals was that slavery contradicts God, and he will therefore liberate black people.42 If this is what they believed, and other interpreters agree with Cone that many enslaved people had a high view of God’s justice and sovereignty, 43 then they would have every right to wonder why this God allowed their oppression to continue, even if he did not ordain it.

Thus, “Come Along, Moses,” declares, “We have a just God to plead-a our cause” and affirms that “He sits in the Heaven and he answers prayer.” However, its refrain pleads, “Come along, Moses, don’t get lost,” thereby asking God to demonstrate that justice by no longer delaying to send the instrument of divine deliverance. 44 “Wheel in a Wheel,” similarly laments,

I wonder weh is Moses he mus’ be dead,—
De chillun ob de Israelites cryin’ fo’ bread
I wonder weh wuz Moses when de Church burn down—
…Standin’ obuh yonder wid his head hung down.45

This “desire for response,” Mays claims, “is pregnant throughout the Spirituals.” 46 “Some Valiant Soldier” includes the line, “For I weep, I weep, I can’t hold out; If any mercy, Lord, O pity poor me.” 47 Lamentations 1:16 is similar: “For these things I weep; mine eye, mine eye runneth down with water, because the comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me.” By lamenting, “I can’t hold out,” and questioning if God has “any mercy,” the song aims to prompt the Lord to provide comfort soon. The line, “If Jesus don’t help me I sho’ly will die” in “I’m A-Trouble in de Mind” similarly seeks to induce divine deliverance. 48 This longing to escape death counters the view that the spirituals primarily express hope for otherworldly compensation. Indeed, by merging their present experience and future hopes with biblical precedents from the past, such that “the God dat lived in Moses’ [or David’s or Daniel’s] time is jus’ de same today,” as one spiritual proclaims, all the spirituals are infused with “a latent and symbolic element of protest.” 49 After all, those heroes of Israelite faith “were delivered in this world.” 50 Read in this light, “Let my people go” appears to be directed at God just as much as any enslaving pharaoh.

Thus, another spiritual asks, “O My Lord delivered Daniel, O why not deliver me too?” 51 Though many take this as a reassuring expression of confidence, 52 it is difficult to imagine, with the double meanings that pervade the spirituals, that its accusatory potential was missed. Another version of this song mentions God delivering “de Hebrew chillun f’om de fiery furnace,” before asking, “An’ why not every man?” 53 which creates a striking contrast with a fragmentary spiritual that repeats with terrifying simplicity, “Can’t stand the fire, can’t stand the fire.” 54

“I’ll Be There” envisions a heavenly scene in which the singer “Gwine to argue wid de Father and chatter wid de Son.” Arguing with God in heaven would be consistent with the earthly behavior demonstrated in several spirituals, as in many texts in the Hebrew Bible. And, as in those biblical texts, this dispute is considered righteous, a behavior worthy of heaven. Confronting God with the injustice that exists in the world is not a rejection but an expression of faith in God’s desire and ability to correct it.

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Conclusion

A real dialogue must go in both directions, and a good dialogue will enlighten both participants. The connections between the spirituals and the broader tradition of defiant faith in the Hebrew Bible offers a new perspective both on the biblical text, overcoming the false interpretive dichotomy that divides faith from protest. As the spirituals demonstrate, these responses may coexist at the same time in the same community and in the same literary form, and even reinforce one another theologically. Similarly, when the spirituals are set in the tradition of defiant faith, on which they draw, their argumentative nature comes to the fore, not as a nullification of their hope in God to work justly but as an application of it, an effort “to protest in faith.” 55 Thus, as Du Bois observed, “through all the sorrow of the Sorrow Songs there breathes a hope—a faith in the ultimate justice of things.” 56 Songs like “Po’ Me!” therefore, weave together despair and hope, alternating between them line by line, to create a stronger expression of faith:

Hallelujah once, hallelujah twice,
Trouble will bury me down!
De Lawd is on de giving hand [a reference to God’s generosity]
Trouble will bury me down. 57

As Thurman suggests, “The experiences of frustration and divine deliverance as set forth in the stories of the Hebrews in bondage, spoke at once to the deep need in the life of the slaves.”58 One without the other would not completely address the extremity of their experience. Like the Israelites before them, enslaved African Americans found hope in their defiant faith, and so can those who face suffering and oppression today, if they will listen.

 


1 This is a revised version of Will Kynes, “Wrestle On, Jacob: Antebellum Spirituals and the Defiant Faith of the Hebrew Bible,” Journal of Biblical Literature 140 (2021): 291–307, available at https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.15699/jbl.1402.2021.4

I am grateful to Brad Braxton, Director of the Center for the Study of African American Religious Life, for hosting me as a Senior Fellow at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture from September to December 2018 and providing initial guidance as I began this project. I am also grateful to Whitworth University for a Hugh Johnston Interdisciplinary Research Grant to help fund my research. Emerson Powery (Messiah University) and Cameron Thomas (Samford University) recommended important sources and provided invaluable feedback as my work progressed. My research assistants, Grace Trumbo and Esther Tsai (Whitworth University) and John Pawlik (Samford University), did incredible work helping me search through hundreds of spirituals for biblical allusions and resonances. Finally, this research would not have been possible without the innumerable anonymous voices who preserved these powerful songs across generations. I have been humbled by this gift, bought at an immeasurable price, and yet shared generously with all who would listen.

Unless otherwise noted, all biblical quotations are from the NRSV.

2 See Will Kynes, “The Trials of Job: Relitigating Job’s ‘Good Case’ in Christian Interpretation,” SJT 66 (2013): 174–91.

3 See, e.g., John Briggs Curtis, “On Job’s Response to Yahweh,” JBL 98 (1979): 497–511; Edward L. Greenstein, Job (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2019), xx–xxi.

4 Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, “The Ethics of Biblical Interpretation: Decentering Biblical Scholarship,” JBL 107 (1988): 3–17, 5.

5 W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Penguin, 1989), 152–53. See Brian K. Blount, “The Souls of Biblical Folks and the Potential for Meaning,” JBL 138 (2019): 6–21

6 John Goldingay, Do We Need the New Testament? Letting the Old Testament Speak for Itself (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015), 116; cf. David W. Stowe, Song of Exile: The Enduring Mystery of Psalm 137 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).

7 Walter Brueggemann, review of William S. Morrow, Protest Against God: The Eclipse of a Biblical Tradition, Bib 91 (2010): 607–10, here 610.

8 See Allen Dwight Callahan, The Talking Book: African Americans and the Bible (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006), 50.

9 William H. Becker, “The Black Tradition of Spiritual Wrestling,” JRT 51 (1994): 29–46, 29, 33–34.

10 Thurman, Deep River, 60, 62.

11 E.g., Mays, The Negro’s God.

12 Miles Mark Fisher, Negro Slave Songs in the United States. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press for the American Historical Association, 1953). Similarly, though with more nuance, see Lovell, Black Song, 223–40.

13 James Cone surveys these interpretive options in his influential book on the theology of the spirituals, The Spirituals and the Blues, 2nd ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1992), and comes to a similar conclusion (13–19, 32).

14 Emerson B. Powery and Rodney S. Sadler, The Genesis of Liberation: Biblical Interpretation in the Antebellum Narratives of the Enslaved (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2016), 150.

15 Callahan, Talking Book, 112–13. Similarly, Jones, Wade in the Water, 42; Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan, Exorcizing Evil: A Womanist Perspective on the Spirituals (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1997), 15; Yolanda Smith, Reclaiming the Spirituals: New Possibilities for African American Christian Education (Cleveland: Pilgrim, 2004), 74.

16 Callahan, Talking Book, prologue; Johnson and Johnson, American Negro Spirituals, 1:38. For the clear “dependence upon stories and motifs that appear in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Scriptures” in the spirituals and how the knowledge of these texts may have been acquired, primarily “through sermons, scripture, or songs that were either preached to them or overheard by them,” see Bailey, “Sorrow Songs,” 73–76.

17 James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson, The Books of American Negro Spirituals (New York: Viking Press, 1940), 1:76–77; hereafter abbreviated ANS.

18 Wimbush, “The Bible and African Americans,” 86.

19 William Francis Allen, Charles Pickard Ware, and Lucy McKim Garrison, eds. Slave Songs of the United States (New York: Dover, 1995), 4–5. Hereafter abbreviated SSUS. This song is sometimes referred to as “Wrestlin’ Jacob.”

20 Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk, 208. See also Callahan, Talking Book, 110; Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, 23–24.

21 SSUS, 17.

22 Thurman, Deep River, 26.

23 SSUS, 93. Cf. e.g., Pss 13:1–2; 35:17; 74:10; 79:5; 89:46. See Cone, Spirituals and the Blues, 37–38.

24 SSUS, 15. Cf. Ps 25:7; 106:4. See also Job 14:13; Jer 15:15; Luke 23:42.

25 ANS, 1:154–55; cf. Ps 69:1–2, 14. See Backfish, “‘My God is a Rock’,” 22.

26 For comparisons of the Psalms and the spirituals, see Goatley, Were You There?, 41–42; Kirk-Duggan, Exorcizing Evil, 63; Bailey, “Sorrow Songs,” 61–83; Backfish, “‘My God is a Rock,’” 11–27.

27 Bailey, “Sorrow Songs,” 67.

28 John Wesley Work, Folk Song of the American Negro (Nashville, TN: Press of Fisk University, 1915), 56.

29 Cited in Goatley, Were You There?, 61–63.

30 SSUS, 94.

31 SSUS, 30–31.

32 Goatley, Were You There?, 53–55.

33 Cited in Goatley, Were You There?, 63.

34 Cited in Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, 27–28.

35 Cited in Raboteau, Slave Religion, 259.

36 Michael Fishbane, “Jeremiah IV 23–26 and Job III 3–13: A Recovered Use of the Creation Pattern,” VT 21 (1971): 151–67, 153.

37 Cited in Cone, Spirituals and the Blues, 66.

38 Cited in Thurman, Deep River, 29.

39 Kirk-Duggan, Exorcizing Evil, 233–34.

40 Cone, Spirituals and the Blues, 68–69.

41 Cone, Spirituals and the Blues, 71.

42 Cone, Spirituals and the Blues, 72 (emphasis original).

43 See Mays, The Negro’s God, 21; Kirk-Duggan, Exorcizing Evil, 332.

44 SUSS, 104.

45 Cited in Lovell, Black Song, 255.

46 Mays, The Negro’s God, 22.

47 SUSS, 50.

48 ANS, 1:120–21

49 Levine, Black Culture, 51. Similarly, Ramey, “Theology of the Lyric Tradition,” 352.

50 Levine, Black Culture, 50; emphasis original.

51 SUSS, 94.

52 E.g., Jones, Wade in the Water, 41–42.

53 ANS, 1:148–51.

54 SUSS, 42.

55 Kirk-Duggan, Exorcizing Evil, 35.

56 Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk, 213.

57 Barton, ed., Old Plantation Hymns, 24.

58 Thurman, Deep River, 14 (emphasis added).

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