Jean Wagner's most enduring contribution to the study of Afro-American poetry is his insistence that it be analyzed in a religious, as well as secular, frame of reference. The appropriateness of such an approach may seem self-evident for a tradition commencing with spirituals and owing its early forms, rhythms, vocabulary, and evangelical fervor to Wesleyan hymnals. But before Wagner a secular outlook that analyzed Black poetry solely within the context of political and social protest was dominant in the field. It is Wagner who first demonstrated the essential fusion of racial and religious feeling in Afro-American poetry. The two, he argued, form a symbiotic union in which religious feelings are often applied to racial issues and racial problems are often projected onto a metaphysical plane. Wagner found this most eloquently illustrated in the Black spiritual, where the desire for freedom in this world and the hope for salvation in the next are inextricably intertwined.