Former African slaves and their children were free to forge their own lives in the South. Their exposure to the popular music of the day resulted in a cross-cultural and lasting influence that worked in both directions. The white European descendants were exposed to African musical elements that emphasized rhythm, the call-and-response format, and the use of blue notes, which are micro-tonal pitches. The black African descendants were exposed to the European musical elements that emphasized tonal melody, chromatic harmony, church music, and folk songs.
From author Lawrence W. Levine’s book, “Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom” (Oxford University Press 1977):
“There was a direct relationship between the national ideological emphasis upon the individual, the popularity of Booker T. Washington’s teachings, and the rise of the #blues …”
” … psychologically, socially, and economically, African-Americans were being acculturated in a way that would have been impossible during slavery, and it is hardly surprising that their secular music reflected this as much as their religious music did.”
The end of the Civil War was the beginning of emancipation for African slaves and their descendants in the American South. By the end of the 19th century individuals from many different cultural backgrounds throughout Mississippi, Louisiana, and other Southern states had started to develop a fusion of traditional African music and European folk music. This new fusion was a wide-ranging mixture from many diverse sources. Among those sources were work shanties and field hollers from former slaves and farm field workers combined with shouts and chants, spiritual hymns, traditional folk songs, and narrative ballads relating stories of the strife and joys of daily life.