10 Children’s Songs that Have Roots in African American Culture

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Children's Songs that Have Roots in African American Culture

African American culture has profoundly influenced the musical landscape, including the world of American children’s songs. Many beloved tunes that children sing today have roots in African American spirituals, work songs, and folk traditions, offering a rich heritage of rhythm, melody, and storytelling.

In this blog post, we explore 10 American children’s songs that originated from African American culture. These songs not only entertain but also teach important lessons and reflect the resilience, creativity, and spirit of the African American community. Discover the history and significance behind these timeless melodies that continue to inspire and educate new generations.

Here is a list of children’s songs that come from African American culture:

Table of Contents

  1. Miss Mary Mack
  2. Little Sally Walker
  3. Hambone
  4. Kum Ba Yah
  5. She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain
  6. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
  7. Down by the Riverside
  8. This Little Light of Mine
  9. Dem Bones (also known as “Dry Bones”)
  10. He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands


Miss Mary Mack

A popular clapping game song with origins in African American communities. The repetitive lyrics and rhythmic clapping make it a favorite among children.


Little Sally Walker

Another clapping and circle game song that children sing while playing. It’s known for its call-and-response structure and energetic rhythm.



A traditional African American children’s song and game involving rhythmic body slapping and singing. It teaches rhythm and coordination.


Kum Ba Yah

Though its exact origins are debated, it is widely recognized as an African American spiritual song often sung around campfires and in educational settings.


She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain

This lively folk song has roots in African American spirituals and Appalachian music, reflecting the cultural blend of the American frontier. It’s often sung with repetitive verses and lively actions, making it a favorite among children.


Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

An African American spiritual song from the era of slavery, it expresses deep longing and hope for liberation. Its soulful melody and poignant lyrics have made it a timeless piece of American musical heritage.


Down by the Riverside

This traditional African American spiritual song is associated with themes of peace and the end of conflict. Its catchy chorus and repetitive structure make it easy for children to sing and remember.


This Little Light of Mine

A gospel song that has become a popular children’s tune, it encourages individuals to let their inner light shine brightly. Its simple, uplifting message and melody make it an enduring favorite.


Dem Bones (also known as “Dry Bones”)

This spiritual song uses a fun, educational approach to teach children about the human skeleton. Its catchy lyrics and rhythm make it an engaging way for kids to learn anatomy.


He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

A beloved spiritual song, it emphasizes themes of divine care and protection. Its simple lyrics and reassuring message make it a comforting song for children.

These songs are celebrated for their rich cultural heritage and are enjoyed by children for their engaging melodies and rhythms.

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10 Children's Songs that Have Roots in African American Culture

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