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November 2, 2003

Cleveland Plain Dealer

The chapel is where the presence is most keenly felt of the blacks who built the place and kept it going through the Civil War, when Union troops burned most of the buildings, and after emancipation, when blacks found they lacked the means to leave. Inside the one-room chapel, a continuing audiotape emits the sounds of an a cappella group singing songs of God and slavery in the staccato rhythm of Africa. The style is called "ring-shout" because participants formed a circle and sang with only rhythmic hand clapping for accompaniment.

The songs sound mournful in the bare little chapel. It's as though the 19th-century abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass - who remembered these things from his own slave days - was here when he noted: "Slaves sing when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears." More

Posted by acapnews at November 2, 2003 1:14 PM

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