Cover image for The trouble I've seen : the big book of Negro spirituals
The trouble I've seen : the big book of Negro spirituals
Chenu, Bruno, 1942-
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Grand livre des Negro Spirituals. English
Publication Information:
Valley Forge, PA : Judson Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xvii, 298 pages ; 23 cm + 1 CD-ROM (4 3/4 in.)
General Note:
Includes song texts.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML3556 .C513 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Bruno Chenu provides an extraordinary record of the origin and history of Negro spirituals and offers exceptional historical and sociological insights into their meaning. Section One focuses on the origin of the spiritual by examining the odyssey of the North American slave trade from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. Section Two features an exhaustive study of the various themes found within the spirituals, which number today at over 6,000. In the final section, Chenu provides a glimpse into the very soul of the slave through hymns, prayers, and the astonishing personal testimonies of slaves. The reader will see the formation of the spiritual up close. The collections of stories and the interviews with free and former slaves that were used as research for The Trouble Ive Seen will undoubtedly leave a profound and memorable imprint. This is a resource no collector of African American books should be without.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Chenu, a French Assumptionist priest and newspaper editor, captures the context of African American spirituals and analyzes the texts. He begins with a brief history of the enslavement of Africans and continues with their conversion to Christianity, which they ironically used to express their resistance to their white masters and maintain hope for future freedom. After tracing the origins of the spiritual song form, the author critically examines the text of 210 spirituals to uncover dozens of common themes, such as deliverance, struggle, exodus, the prophets of liberation, almighty God, and Judgment Day. Throughout, Chenu uses the words of slaves and ex-slaves to illustrate his arguments, providing an interesting perspective with his expertise in church history. Well organized, ably researched, and clearly written, this book will offer music scholars an important viewpoint on the meaning and social backdrop of African American spirituals. However, because of its extremely focused subject matter, the volume ultimately adds little to the general understanding of African American music. An optional purchase.-Dave Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.