South Carolina designated the spiritual as the official state music in 1999. Spirituals are songs usually derived from a religious theme. The origin and development of the spiritual is deeply rooted in South Carolina; much of this music originated in the coastal regions.
The spiritual was passed down orally for many years and first committed to writing in South Carolina on St. Helena Island by a freed black woman and a white Union Army officer during the Civil War. The publication of an 1867 book on slave songs was the result of the work done by an educational mission on the Port Royal islands in 1861.