Epstein: “Sinful Tunes and Spirituals” (1978)

Sinful Tunes and Spirituals: Black Folk Music to the Civil War ~ Dena J. Epstein (University of Illinois Press, 1978)

From the plaintive tunes of woe sung by exiled kings and queens of Africa to the spirited worksongs and “shouts” of freedmen, in Sinful Tunes and Spirituals Dena J. Epstein traces the course of early black folk music in all its guises.

This extensive book arose out of Epstein’s chance encounter with the work of William Francis Allen (Slave Songs of the United States); it gathers together numerous historical mentions of black music, giving us a richer sense of the origins and components of much antebellum and Civil War-era music.

dvd-menuJim Carrier’s 2013 film “The Librarian and the Banjo” details Epstein’s quest over several decades to collect historical documentation of black music & culture.  View it HERE.

Bob Winans on Epstein’s work:

Gourd banjos:


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