Spirituals preserve and share rich US history

To help celebrate Black History Month, the World Cultures Program had a viewing of “The Spirituals” at the Saville Theatre that included a special discussion with the film’s director, Erin McGinnis, on Feb. 7.

In spite of a small audience turnout, the 2007 “The Spirituals” documentary helped viewers understand the importance of preserving the art and culture of our ancestors.

McGinnis and her film crew spent one year researching the history of African-American spirituals, which are being revived by groups like the American Spiritual Ensemble.

Spirituals were created by enslaved Africans and were primarily used as an expression of religious faith.

During the 1800’s, at a time when  slavery was very much alive, slaves sang spiritual songs to pass the time and encourage other slaves to continue working and send hidden messages to each other.

In order to help keep the history alive, groups like the American Spiritual Ensemble tour the country to educate and demonstrate the songs that helped strengthen the unity of their enslaved ancestors.

McGinnis and her film crew followed the American Spiritual Ensemble on tour.

“It was a pleasure to record their audio and what’s amazing to me is that they’re all such great singers that everything they do is in tune…What they do to preserve the culture of their ancestors is important,” said McGinnis.

The event was originally scheduled to take place on Feb. 9 but the City College homepage and the printed fliers did not take note of the date change to Feb. 7. Because of the date confusion the opportunity to meet filmmaker McGinnis was lost except for a few students who checked the City College website calendar that had been updated the day of the event.

For more information about World Culture events visit Room 2A or call 619-388-3552.

More information is available at americanspiritualensemble.com