Rappahannock Community College, Richmond County Public Schools Multicultural and Diversity Committee and Richmond County Museum will present Calvin Earl, storyteller and preservationist of African-American Spirituals, at 2 p.m. March 16 in the RCC Lecture Hall, 52 Campus Drive, Warsaw.
Passion for the preservation of the spirituals led Earl to lobby for the introduction of twin resolutions in the U.S. Congress in 2007 to honor American slaves for their contributions to the nation and recognize the African-American Spiritual as a national treasure, reported RCC director of communications Jeff Macharyas.
Due to his successful efforts in the passage of the legislation, Earl became known as the “Ambassador of the African-American Spirituals.”
In 2008, President George W. Bush presented him a Presidential Proclamation “celebrating the extraordinary talents and creativity of African-American singers, musicians and composers whose achievements have enriched our culture and enhanced our lives.”
In celebration of Black History Month, Richmond County Museum, 5874 Richmond, Warsaw, is featuring an exhibit about the history of African American Spirituals, reported curator David Jett.
These songs were a natural outgrowth of African musical forms at first, but mingled with Christian hymns later to create a new music, said Jett. Rhythmic spiritual tunes lightened heavy burdens, often serving as work songs of enslaved people.
Hidden meanings in songs such as “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” and “The Gospel Train” referred to hopes and plans for escaping to freedom and a new home in the North by traveling through the stations on the Underground Railroad, he said.