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[Detail] Wayne Perry playing fiddle, Crowley, Louisiana.

Historical Comprehension

The number and variety of this collection's materials allow students to gain a deep and multifaceted understanding of several historical topics. The African-American experience of the South, as outlined in the U.S. History section, is just one. A second topic is religion in the South.


The numerous spirituals in Southern Mosaic, promising redemption and warning sinners, attest to the importance of a distinctive evangelical Christian culture in the South, many aspects of which were shared by blacks and whites alike. Students can listen to recordings from among 131 spirituals as well as recordings found under the subject headings of benedictions, hymns, prayers, religious songs, music, and oratory to learn more about not only evangelical Christianity, but Mexican Catholicism as well. They can also view images listed under a number of subject headings including spiritual life, baptism, pulpits, churches, and clergy. In addition to this visual and auditory data, students can round off their comprehension of religion in the South by doing full-text searches on a variety of terms such as church, preacher, Sunday, God, and Dios locating lyrics and fieldnotes such as the excerpt below. Similarly comprehensive explorations may be done of rural life in the South and folk music.

  "The Gospel Train"

  • What can you determine from these materials about the uses of religious rhetoric and religious ideas such as redemption and sin in the South?
  • How are the uses the same and different for different communities, such as African Americans in Louisiana, Caucasians in Texas, and Mexicans in the Southwest?
  • Are the religious songs inspirational or instructional? What feelings do they inspire? What messages and information do they relate?
  • How are the sounds of religious songs related to the ideas they express?

For the evening Mr. Robertson had investigated Negro rural servicers We were told that the Little Hope Baptist congregation would have services. It looked like rain, but we started out. On the way we learned from Negroes on foot that the group was gathering at the school-house which was nearer than the church house. When we arrived some fifty people of all ages had gathered. The house was dimly lighted but we set to work as quickly as possible, since lightning was beginning to flash. Perhaps the congregation did not feel at home here, but response came slowly. Finally we did record several lined hymns and spirituals and one very pretty cradle song. By the time we had packed up ready to go, the rain was coming down in sheets....with the careful driving of Mr. Robertson we slid safely along the clay roads home. I couldn't help wondering what the "Sunday Best" of those faithful church members looked like after they had waded through the rain over the several miles that many had to travel. They are a very patient, fine-spirited people.

Page 291 of the Fieldnotes