Negro Spirituals are considered the earliest form of religious music developed by the African Americans during slavery. The creation of spirituals can be attributed to the conversion of enslaved people to Christianity during the Great Awakening period. The enslaved people began to exhibit Christian beliefs through their music, all while including their hardships. Spirituals allowed enslaved people to interpret and express religious beliefs and feelings along with their struggles through music. Spirituals united them and allowed them to deviate from their cruel surroundings. Negros did not receive credit or recognition for spirituals and had their songs stolen and put into songbooks for profit while the creators remained nameless.



The Spiritual Royalties Initiative was begun by Susan DeSelms at the United Parish in Brookline, MA, and a Presbyterian Church in Colorado at about the same time in 2020.


Susan says: "At the United Parish, this is still going very well. We now have a committee working with me on how to institutionalize the program further and make it easier for newcomers and visitors to grasp the purpose and details of the project. Our congregation continues to be generous, and there has been no pushback or negative fallout from anyone. Other churches may face more internal controversy, but growth is sometimes a little painful, and this is an opportunity to learn and grow. We've now paid about $13,000 in royalties to the Hamilton-Garrett Music Center."



This Initiative helps us in:

  • Reconciliation
  • Restoration
  • Rehabilitation
  • Reparation


This initiative is NOT charity but a repayment of a debt we owe. Spirituals have generated much wealth for entitled white individuals and institutions since slavery.


What can we do, and how can we do it?

We suggest that you collaborate with a local African-American group, especially one serving minority youth. This would be a "one-way street" – no-strings-attached relationship.


How to implement:

  • Create a steering committee to spearhead this
  • Research possible institutions to give our money
  • Document reasoning for our Consistory to approve
  • Create a Congregational Pledge
  • Decide how the giving will be achieved – individuals, budgeted, matching funds?
  • Do discernment work – education and reflection for the congregation
  • Let the community know what's happening – PR
  • Each time a spiritual is sung, print the Congregational Pledge in the bulletin:


Negro Spiritual Royalties Project Congregational Pledge

We acknowledge the history and significance of the Negro Spirituals sung in worship today:

Let Us Break Bread Together (for example)

(and list others used in your service here as well)

We affirm their artistic and spiritual worth in the life of the world today.

With great respect and deep gratitude for the tremendous musical contributions

made to American music by Black people, we offer our thanks and praise to God

for the creators of the Negro Spiritual and their descendants.

We pledge that each time we sing Negro Spirituals in our worship:

We will sing them with holy reverence and open hearts;

We will honor the unnamed enslaved people who composed them in our prayers;

And we will pay royalties from the funds collected in the offering plate


an organization dedicated to promoting the advancement of young Black

artists and musicians, and to preserve Negro Spirituals in the Black community.

We understand that the debt owed to Black musicians and artists

can never be fully repaid.

Through our prayers, our gifts, and our actions,

we will keep striving to end systemic racism in America.

How and when will the money be collected?

St. Paul's UCC recognizes that we owe a debt to these song makers.  While we can't repay the actual composers of these songs, we can collect money each time we sing a Negro Spiritual and provide that money to a local organization that seeks justice and recognition of Black music and art.  Therefore, during February - Black History Month, and at other times when we sing these Spirituals in our worship, we will collect donations in the following ways:


There will be specially marked envelopes where money can be given to this fund. Drop them in the offering plate or put them in the church office.

We will provide a QR code in the bulletin and online to take you directly to our Vanco site for your donation.


In addition, St. Paul's members are encouraged to spread the word through their own email and social media to encourage others to become informed and, if they desire, contribute to this initiative.   NOTE:  his initiative is NOT charity, but repayment of a debt we owe. Spirituals have generated much wealth for entitled white individuals and institutions since slavery.


Where will the funds go?

The Capital Area Music Association (CAMA) is a community choral arts organization emphasizing the music of African American composers and African American culture. The focus and goal for excellence in developing and presenting sacred and secular music and music education through their scholarship fund continue to be the impetus of presentations and activities sponsored by CAMA. 

Sankofa: Sankofa African American Theatre Company exists to engage and enrich the Harrisburg region around the African American perspective on relevant issues through thought-provoking theatre that reflects artistic excellence. Their website is www.sankofatheatrehbg.com.

Please contact Eric Dundore or Shirley Keith Knox if you have any questions or concerns.

Spirituals Adult Sunday School Class - Black History Month

Spirituals - Week One

02/05/2023 - Eric Dundore, Music Director

Spirituals - Week Two

02/12/2023 - Eric Dundore, Music Director

Spirituals - Week Three

02/19/2023 - Eric Dundore, Music Director

Spirituals - Week Four

02/26/2023 - Eric Dundore, Music Director