Cover for EPSTEIN: Sinful Tunes and Spirituals: Black Folk Music to the Civil War. Click for larger image

Sinful Tunes and Spirituals

Black Folk Music to the Civil War
Awards and Recognition:

Winner of the Simkins Prize of the Southern Historical Association, 1979. Winner of the Chicago Folklore Prize.

The anniversary edition of a classic study of black slave music in America

From the plaintive tunes of woe sung by exiled kings and queens of Africa to the spirited worksongs and "shouts" of freedmen, enslaved people created expansive forms of music from the United States to the West Indies and South America. Dena J. Epstein classic work traces the course of early black folk music in all its guises. Epstein's groundbreaking scholarship redefined the study of black music in the slavery era by presenting the little-known development of black folk music in the United States, including the use of drums, the banjo, and other instruments originating in Africa; a wealth of eyewitness accounts and illustrations; in-depth look at a wide range of topics; and a collection of musical examples. This edition offers an author's preface that looks back on the twenty-five years of changes in scholarship that followed the book's original publication.


"No previous scholar has told more about the manner of diffusion of African music and dance in the New World . . . . No one else has related with more telling effect the impact that Afro-American musical patterns had upon the sensibilities of the white public."--Lawrence W. Levine, Journal of American History

"Epstein has uncovered far more about early black music than anyone thought possible. Her luxuriant quotations and definitive treatments of a wide variety of musical subtopics make the book an essential reference volume and a marvelous storehouse of information."--John B. Boles, Journal of Southern History

"Sinful Tunes ensures that we will never again be able to sing or listen to a spiritual in quite the same way. We can now see more clearly than ever before what has shaped it; we have been taken nearer the soul of the music."--Hugh Brogan, Times Literary Supplement

"[A] definitive, indeed monumental study of black slave music in America."--Guthrie P. Ramsey Jr., Musical Quarterly


Dena J. Epstein (1916-2013) was a retired assistant music librarian at the Joseph Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago, and a past president of the Music Library Association.

To order online:
//www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/77gne3kd9780252071508.html

To order by phone:
(800) 621-2736 (USA/Canada)
(773) 702-7000 (International)

Related Titles

previous book next book
I Came a Stranger - Cover
I Came a Stranger

The Story of a Hull-House Girl

Hilda Satt Polacheck

Black Music Research Journal - Cover
Black Music Research Journal

Edited by Gayle Murchison

Crime and Punishment in the Jim Crow South - Cover
Crime and Punishment in the Jim Crow South

Edited by Amy Louise Wood and Natalie J. Ring

Women, Gender, and Families of Color - Cover
Women, Gender, and Families of Color

Edited by Jennifer F. Hamer

The Roots of Rough Justice - Cover
The Roots of Rough Justice

Origins of American Lynching

Michael J. Pfeifer

Leaders of Their Race - Cover
Leaders of Their Race

Educating Black and White Women in the New South

Sarah H. Case

A History of the Ozarks, Volume 1 - Cover
A History of the Ozarks, Volume 1

The Old Ozarks

Brooks Blevins

A History of the Ozarks, Volume 2 - Cover
A History of the Ozarks, Volume 2

The Conflicted Ozarks

Brooks Blevins

Myths America Lives By - Cover
Myths America Lives By

White Supremacy and the Stories That Give Us Meaning

Richard T. Hughes

Hillbilly Hellraisers - Cover
Hillbilly Hellraisers

Federal Power and Populist Defiance in the Ozarks

J. Blake Perkins

Shelter from the Machine - Cover
Shelter from the Machine

Homesteaders in the Age of Capitalism

Jason G. Strange

Ghost of the Ozarks - Cover
Ghost of the Ozarks

Murder and Memory in the Upland South

Brooks Blevins

Sex, Sickness, and Slavery - Cover
Sex, Sickness, and Slavery

Illness in the Antebellum South

Marli F. Weiner

Women of the Storm - Cover
Women of the Storm

Civic Activism after Hurricane Katrina

Emmanuel David