"A lot of young African-Americans don't know their history," Baskin-Watson said. "They have not been exposed to it. I don't think the black church necessarily is the answer. A lot of them are not doing spirituals, and I don't see anything changing that."
A lot of African-American churches are more influenced by what is going on in contemporary music, Harris said.
Courses in African-American history are one way to keep knowledge of Negro spirituals alive, he said. Students develop an appreciation for them when they learn of their influence on classical music, jazz, blues and pop music, from both black and white composers.
In some public schools, they are taught as part of American folk music, not Christian music, Granade said.
He agrees that many people today can identify with Negro spirituals.
"They express emotional depth, and that carries throughout time," he said. "The slaves were looking for redemption, and we still need that today."
Some songs cross racial barriers because many Protestant hymnals contain Negro spirituals.
Now praise-and-worship songs, with the words displayed on large screens, are more popular than hymns, experts say.
But Robinson said Negro spirituals will not be lost.
"Just about everyone will have a grandma or grandpa who will sing those songs," he said.
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