Key dates and significant
events in the evolution of gospel music ...
First Africans on
Dutch traders brought the first Africans to
the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia as indentured
African’s emphasis on musical elements such as call and
response, improvisation, polyrhythms, and percussive
affinities will form the basis of gospel and all other forms
of African American musical expression.
Bay Psalm Book
printed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
The first US book, that is still in
existence, printed in British North America.
First edition of
Bay Psalm Book to contain music
This was the 9th edition of the book of
psalms which included 13 tunes from John Playford's A
Breefe Introduction to the Skill of Musick (London,
publication of Isaac Watts' Hymns and Spiritual Songs
Isaac Watts was about 22 when he wrote the
bulk of his Hymns and Spiritual Songs. They were sung from
manuscripts in Southampton Chapel, Southampton, England
prior to publication.
writer of more than 750 hymns, his songs will become so
popular among African Americans that they are simply
referred to as “an old Dr. Watts.”
publication of Isaac Watts' Hymns and Spiritual Songs
Partly printed by Benjamin Franklin in
Philadelphia and partly by his partner James Parker in New
York, with the binding done in Boston, this was also the
first book whose manufacture was divided amongst the three
major colonial towns.
first African American church in Savannah, Georgia
Rev. Andrew Bryan
led the First African Baptist Church to
official recognition with 67 members on January 20, 1788, at
their regular meeting place of Brampton's barn,
approximately three miles west of Savannah, Georgia. Bryan
was a slave who bought his freedom two years later and in 1794
his congregation built a frame structure on land
Bryan had purchased the year before. They called the church
Bryan Street African Baptist Church.
the Revival Spiritual with the 'Kentucky Revival' or 'Second
"Somewhere between 1800 and 1801, in the upper part of
Kentucky, at a memorable place called “Cane Ridge,” there
was appointed a sacramental meeting by some of the
Presbyterian ministers, at which meeting, seemingly
unexpected by ministers or people, the mighty power of God
was displayed in a very extraordinary manner; many were
moved to tears, and bitter and loud crying for mercy. The
meeting was protracted for weeks. Ministers of almost all
denominations flocked in from far and near. The meeting was
kept up by night and day. Thousands heard of the mighty
work, and came on foot, on horseback, in carriages and
wagons. It was supposed that there were in attendance at
times during the meeting from twelve to twenty-five thousand
people. Hundreds fell prostrate under the mighty power of
God, as men slain in battle. Stands were erected in the
woods from which preachers of different Churches proclaimed
repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,
and it was supposed, by eye and ear witnesses, that between
one and two thousand souls were happily and powerfully
converted to God during the meeting. It was not unusual for
one, two, three, and four to seven preachers to be
addressing the listening thousands at the same time from the
different stands erected for the purpose. The heavenly fire
spread in almost every direction. It was said, by truthful
witnesses, that at times more than one thousand persons
broke into loud shouting all at once, and that the shouts
could be heard for miles around".
- Autobiography of Peter Cartwright, The Backwoods Preacher, edited by W.
P. Strickland (New York: Carlton Porter, 1856).
The original Cane Ridge Meeting House within
a Stone Memorial Building
Rev. Richard Allen
publishes the widely used hymnal 'Collection of Spiritual Songs
Rev. Richard Allen organised the
first congregation of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
(the AME Church) and because he knew and appreciated the
importance of music to his people, one of his first acts as
AME minister was to publish a hymnal for the specific use of
his congregation. The hymnal contained hymns that had a
special appeal to members of his congregation, hymns that
were long-time favourites of black Americans. Thus the
hymnal provides hymns that represent the black worshipers'
own choices, not the choices of white missionaries and
ministers. The hymnal is apparently the earliest source in
history that includes hymns to which 'wandering' choruses or
refrains are attached, that is, choruses that are freely
added to any hymn rather than affixed permanently to
specific hymns. In 1801 two editions of the collection of hymns
were published, the first entitled "A Collection of Spiritual Songs and Hymns Selected
From Various Authors by Richard Allen, African Minister",
printed by John Ormrod, who had the previous year printed
'The Articles of Association of The AME Church of The City
Of Philadelphia' for him. The second was entitled "A Collection of Spiritual Songs and Hymns Selected
From Various Authors by Richard Allen, African Minister of
the African Methodist Episcopal Church", printed by T.
L. Plowman. The first collection consisted of 54
hymn texts, without tunes, drawn mainly from the collections
of Dr. Watts, the Wesleys, and other hymn writers favoured
by the Methodists, but also including hymns popular with the
Baptists. Ten more hymns were added in the second edition.
- "The Music of Black Americans", Eileen Southern, W. W. Norton & Company,
Third Edition 1997.
- "Readings in Black American Music", Eileen Southern, W. W. Norton &
Company, Second Edition 1983.
Introduction of Choral Singing in the A.M.E. Church
The first introduction of choral singing in
the African Methodist Episcopal Church took place in Behel,
Philadelphia, Pa, between 1841 and 1842.
- "Readings in Black American Music", Eileen Southern, W. W. Norton &
Company, Second Edition 1983.
Harp Songbook compiled
When Georgians B.F. White and E.J. King
compiled the songbook, The Sacred Harp, in 1844, they
were continuing a singing tradition, which would ultimately
become identified with the book. Thousands of southerners
would be exposed to music through the singing schools taught
from The Sacred Harp.
of Slave Songs of the United States
Slave Songs of the United States
represents the work of its three editors, William Francis
Allen, Charles Pickard Ware and Lucy McKim Garrison,
all of whom collected and annotated the songs while working
in the Sea Islands of South Carolina during the Civil War,
and also of other collectors who transcribed songs sung by
former slaves in other parts of the country.
Founding of The
Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (C.M.E.)
- (Re-named The Christian M E Church in 1954)
The Colored Methodist Episcopal Church, or
the CME Church as it is commonly called, came into existence
as a result of the movement from slavery to freedom. During
the years following the birth of Methodism, the denomination
grew rapidly. The Methodist Episcopal Church South was an
outgrowth of Wesley's Methodism. Some Blacks, converted to
Christianity by slave masters, accepted the Methodist
doctrine as it was. However, with the passage of time, the
emancipation of Blacks from slavery created the desire by
Blacks to have and control their own church. This desire led
formerly enslaved persons who had been members of the
Methodist Episcopal Church South, to start their own
independent religious organization.
Forty-one men who have exemplified leadership qualities
gathered together in Jackson, Tennessee on December 16,
1870. With the advice and assistance of the white brethren
of the M.E. Church South, the Black religious leaders
organized the colored branch of Methodism. On Tuesday,
December 20, they adopted the Methodist South's Book of
Discipline and on Wednesday, December 21, they elected two
of their own preachers - William H. Miles of Kentucky and
Richard H. Vanderhorst of Georgia - as their bishops.
Gathering in Jackson with only a dream, the religious
leaders departed with their own church a reality.
Methodist Episcopal Church
CME mission church
First CME Bishop
William H. Miles
First tour by
the Fisk Jubilee Singers
Singers were organized as a fundraising effort for Fisk
University. The historically black college in Nashville,
Tennessee was founded by the American Missionary Association
and local supporters after the end of the American Civil War
to educate freedmen and other young African Americans. The
five-year-old university was facing serious financial
difficulty. To avert bankruptcy and closure, Fisk's
treasurer and music director, George L. White, a white
Northern missionary, gathered a nine-member student chorus
to go on tour to earn money for the university. On October
6, 1871, the group of students, consisting of two quartets
and a pianist, started their U.S. tour under White's
direction. They first performed in Cincinnati, Ohio. Over
the next 18 months, the group toured through Ohio,
Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New
Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. After
a concert in Cincinnati, the group donated their small
profit, which amounted to less than fifty dollars, to the
relief to the victims of the Great Chicago Fire of October
1871. As soprano Maggie Porter recalled, "We had thirty
dollars and sent every penny to Chicago and didn’t have
anything for ourselves."
group and their pastor, Henry Bennett, prayed about whether
to continue with the tour. White went off to pray as well;
he believed that they needed a name to capture audience
attention. The next morning, he met with the singers and
said "Children, it shall be Jubilee Singers in memory of the
Jewish year of Jubilee." This was a reference to Jubilee
described in the book of Leviticus in the Bible. Each
fiftieth Pentecost was followed by a "year of jubilee" in
would be set free. Since most of the students at Fisk
University and their families were newly freed slaves, the
name "Jubilee Singers" seemed fitting.
The Jubilee Singers' performances were a
departure from the familiar "black minstrel" genre of white
musicians' performing in blackface. As the tour continued,
audiences came to appreciate the singers' voices, and the
group began to be praised. The Jubilee Singers are credited
with the early popularization of the Negro spiritual
tradition among white and northern audiences in the late
19th century; many were previously unaware of its existence.
After the rough start, the first United States tours
eventually earned $40,000 for Fisk University.
- Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fisk_Jubilee_Singers)
First of the
Moody-Sankey revival meetings
Evangelists Ira David Sankey and
Lyman Moody sang and preached at daily noon prayer meetings
around Chicago as well as regular services at Moody's
Illinois Street Church, Chicago.
Their work together began in Chicago
early in 1871. The great fire of October that year which
destroyed the city interrupted their plans, but work was
resumed in a temporary tabernacle, where a corner was
reserved as crude sleeping quarters. Their memorable revival
ministry together in the British Isles began in June 1873,
and they sailed into Liverpool with the avowed intention of
winning 10,000 souls for Christ. There was some resistance
at first, and parts of the religious establishment remained
hostile. As Moody commented: “It was easier finding the
devil than finding the ministers.” Meetings were mocked as
“performances” which merely stirred the emotions - and it
was true that many wiped tears away as they heard Mr. Sankey
sing the Gospel. But the Moody-Sankey style answered a need
and touched a chord in the hearts of many. Every level of
Victorian Society was rocked by the impact of these two
visiting American evangelists.
Until their return from the ministry in
Great Britain, Moody and Sankey were not well known much
beyond the Chicago area. They returned to widespread fame
and acknowledgment and became the model for evangelism in
the United States, which has lasted even to the present
time. Revival campaigns continued across the length and
breadth of America, in Canada and Mexico, and again in
- UK Bible Students (http://www.ukbiblestudents.co.uk/)
Dwight Lyman Moody
Use of The Term 'Gospel'
In 1874 Philip Paul Bliss edited a
revival song-book titled "Gospel Songs" for use in
evangelical campaigns, including 50 of his own compositions.
In 1875, in conjunction with Ira David Sankey, he compiled
"Gospel Hymns and Sacred Songs" and in 1876 he compiled the
book known as "Gospel Hymns No. 2" (All copyright John
Church & Co.).
- Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_music)
- Christian Biography Resources
black Baptist congregation into the National Baptist
The National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. traces its
history to Saturday, November 22, 1880 when 151 persons from
11 states met in Montgomery, Alabama and organized the
Baptist Foreign Mission Convention.
Six years later in 1886, 600 delegates from 17 states
gathered at the First Baptist Church in St. Louis, Missouri
and formed the National Baptist Convention of America. Seven
years later in 1893, the National Baptist Education
Convention was formed. None of the three Conventions thrived
separately. So in 1895, the three bodies effected a merger
in a meeting held at the Friendship Baptist Church in
- National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. (http://www.nationalbaptist.com)
Repeal of 1875
Civil Rights Act, enabling segregationist practices
Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3 (1883), were a group of
five similar cases in which African-Americans had sued
theaters, hotels and transit companies that had refused them
admittance or excluded them from "white only" facilities.
These were consolidated into one issue for the United States
Supreme Court to review. The Court held that Congress lacked
the constitutional authority under the enforcement
provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to outlaw racial
discrimination by private individuals and organizations,
rather than state and local governments.
More particularly, the Court held that the
Civil Rights Act of 1875, which provided that "all persons
within the jurisdiction of the United States shall be
entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the
accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of
inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and
other places of public amusement; subject only to the
conditions and limitations established by law, and
applicable alike to citizens of every race and color,
regardless of any previous condition of servitude" was
The consequences of this
decision put an end to the attempts by Radical Republicans
to ensure the civil rights of blacks and ushered in the
widespread segregation of blacks in housing, employment and
public life that confined them to second-class citizenship
throughout much of the United States until the passage of
civil rights legislation in the 1960s in the wake of the
Civil Rights Movement.
- Wikipedia: Civil Rights Cases 1883 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Rights_Cases)
US Supreme Court
approves Southern States' segregation laws
Plessy v. Ferguson, (1896), was the landmark US
Supreme Court case that legalized discrimination against
African-Americans and gave credence to the "separate but
Founding of the
Church of God in Christ (COGIC)
The Church of God in Christ (COGIC) was
formed in 1897 by a group of disfellowshiped
most notably Charles
Price Jones (1865–1949) and the
founder Charles Harrison
Mason (1866–1961). Jones and
Mason were licensed Baptist ministers in Mississippi in the
1890s who were disfellowshiped by the local Baptist
association for preaching the doctrine of Christian
perfection also known as "Holiness." They became associated
with a group of men who would become the early
leaders of the Holiness
Movement in the
late 19th century.
Jones and Mason began teaching the doctrine
of Holiness and Sanctification in their baptist churches.
However, once people testified to being "sanctified," many
were persecuted and expelled from their mainline churches
and began to establish new independent churches. In 1896,
Jones and Mason conducted such a revival in Jackson,
Mississippi that led to their expulsion from the local
baptist association. C. P. Jones led a group of followers
from the Mt. Helm Baptist Church in Jackson, MS to form the
Christ Temple Church. In 1897, C.H. Mason established the
St. Paul Church in Lexington, MS which became the first and
oldest COGIC congregation in the world.
When the first convocation was held in 1897,
the group was originally known simply as the "Church of
God." However, so many new holiness groups were forming and
using the name "Church of God," that Mason sought a name to
distinguish this Holiness organization from others. Later in
1897, while in Little Rock, AR, Mason believed that God had
given him such a name for the group, the "Church of God in
Christ" (COGIC). The group adopted the name and COGIC began
to grow throughout the south.
- Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_God_in_Christ)
Machine Records makes recordings of camp meeting shouts -
the first recorded black music.
The recordings featured the Dinwiddie Colored
Quartet's Jubilee and Camp Meeting Shouts.
of The Souls of Black Folk
The Souls of Black Folk
by W. E. B. DuBois contained a series of essays previously
published in magazines and journals. Part social
documentary, part history, part autobiography, part
anthropological field report, a founding work in the
literature of black protest, it was an immediate success and
remains unparalleled in its scope. The final chapter The
Sorrow Songs was the first significant interpretation of
the slave spirituals which set the stage for other
serious study and comment.
E. B. DuBois
The Azusa Street
The Azusa Street Revival begins in Los
Angeles under the direction of the African American
religious pioneer William Seymour. In addition to giving
rise to modern-day Pentecostalism, the music of the revival
recaptures the energy of the pre-emancipation shouts.
The Apostolic Faith Mission on Azusa Street,
considered to be the birthplace of Pentecostalism
Founding of the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Founded Feb. 12. 1909, the NAACP is the
nation's oldest, largest and most widely recognized
grassroots-based civil rights organization. The NAACP was
formed partly in response to the continuing horrific
practice of lynching and the 1908 race riot in Springfield,
the capital of Illinois and resting place of
Abraham Lincoln. Appalled at the violence that was committed
against blacks, a group of white liberals that included Mary
White Ovington and Oswald Garrison Villard, both the
descendants of abolitionists, William English Walling and
Dr. Henry Moscowitz issued a call for a meeting to discuss
racial justice. Some 60 people, seven of whom were African
American (including W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett
and Mary Church Terrell), signed the call, which was
released on the centennial of Lincoln's birth.
Echoing the focus of Du Bois' Niagara Movement began in
1905, the NAACP's stated goal was to secure for all people
the rights guaranteed in the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments
to the United States Constitution, which promised an end to
slavery, the equal protection of the law, and universal
adult male suffrage, respectively.
The NAACP's principal objective is to ensure the political,
educational, social and economic equality of minority group
citizens of United States and eliminate race prejudice. The
NAACP seeks to remove all barriers of racial discrimination
through the democratic processes.
- NAACP (www.naacp.org)
of a collection of solo arrangements of spirituals
"Jubilee Songs of The United States of
America" by Harry T. Burleigh
of a collection of gospel hymns written by a black
"New Songs of Paradise" by Charles A. Tindley
Rodeheaver founds gospel recording label
Homer Rodeheaver was an American evangelist,
music director, music publisher, composer of gospel songs,
and pioneer in the recording of sacred music. The Rodeheaver
Record Company's Rainbow Records label featured Christian
gospel music, hymns and spirituals.
'Race Records' as a genre
The promotional catchphrase
“race music” was first applied by Ralph Peer (1892-1960), a
Missouri-born talent scout for OKeh Records who had worked
as an assistant on Mamie Smith’s first recording sessions in
1920 ("Crazy Blues"). Although it might sound derogatory
today, the term “race” was used in a positive sense in urban
African-American communities during the 1920s . The term was
soon picked up by other companies and was also widely used
by the black press. The performances released on race
records included a variety of musical styles – blues, jazz,
gospel choirs, vocal quartets, string bands, and
jug-and-washboard bands – as well as oral performances such
as sermons, stories, and comic routines.
- America.gov Archive (http://www.america.gov)
of Gospel Pearls
The National Baptist Convention
publishes the songbook
the first hymnal from a major African American denomination
to include selections of the new music that would become
known as gospel.
broadcast of a church service
Public radio broadcasts began on November 2, 1920 by Station
KDKA of Pittsburgh. On January 2, 1921,
just two months to the day after its first broadcast, KDKA
aired the first religious service in the history of radio.
It was undertaken by Westinghouse to test its ability to do
a remote broadcast far from a radio studio. Pittsburgh's
Calvary Episcopal Church was chosen because one of the
Westinghouse engineers happened to be a member of the choir
and made the arrangements.
- Christianity.com, Church History Timeline (http://www.christianity.com)
recording sessions (OKeh Records)
As the interest in 'race' recordings by
previously unrecorded colored, ethnic and rural performers
continued to develop OKeh were among the first record
companies in the United States to conduct regular field
trips to remote parts of the country where recording
facilities had never previously been available.
- Discography of OKeh Records, 1918-1934 (http://bsnpubs.com/columbia/okeh/okeh.html)
key recordings defining gospel piano style
"Arizona Dranes is the most important performer for
introducing ‘hot’ piano style to African American gospel
- music historian David Evans.
"The first musical
star of the Church of God in Christ, a Memphis-based
that pioneered foot-stomping music, Dranes and her
lost-in-the-spirit outbursts laid the blueprint for rock ‘n’
of solo guitar gospel - Blind Joe Taggart
In 1926 the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company
of Chicago was attempting to establish their Vocalion Race
series in competition with similar series on OKeh, Columbia
and Paramount. Along with the usual jazz groups, vaudeville
singers, country blues artists, vocal quartets, and singing
preachers, they recorded the religious equivalent of country
blues performers: the guitar evangelists.. It was in
November 1926 that Blind Joe Taggart became the first of
these guitar evangelists to record.
- Ken Romanowski, Document Records DOCD-5153 Blind Joe Taggart Vol. 1
Rev. J. M. Gates'
sermons outsell Bessie Smith recordings
Rev. J. M. Gates had a very prolific recording career,
recording over 200 sides between 1926 and 1941, including
frequent re-recordings. At least a quarter of all sermons
commercially released on record before 1943 were recorded by
Gates. His sermons appeared on a variety of labels -
Columbia, Victor, Bluebird, OKeh, Gennett, Vocalion,
Pate and Banner.
- Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._M._Gates) / Big Road Blues / Blues and Gospel Music, Cambridge
University Press 2002
Johnson records 'Dark was the Night, Cold was the Ground'
Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground' is primarily an
instrumental featuring Blind Willie Johnson's self-taught
bottleneck slide guitar and picking style accompanied by his
vocalizations of humming and moaning. His melancholy,
gravel-throated humming of the guitar part creates the
impression of "unison moaning", a melodic style common in
Baptist churches where, instead of harmonizing, a choir hums
or sings the same vocal part, albeit with slight variations
among its members. Music historian Mark Humphrey
describes Johnson's composition as an impressionistic
rendition of “lining out”, a call-and-response style of
singing hymns that is common in southern African-American
churches. It has the distinction of being one of 27 samples
of music included on the Voyager Golden Record, launched
into space in 1977 to represent the diversity of life on
Earth. "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground" was chosen
as the human expression of loneliness.
- Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_Willie_Johnson)
Thomas Dorsey, Sallie Martin
and others establish the National Convention of Gospel
Choirs and Choruses in
As the popularity of the gospel choir began
to spread Thomas Dorsey saw the need to organise these
choirs into unions. The first gospel choir union was
organised in Chicago in 1932 and Thomas Dorsey was elected
President. The success of the union gave rise to the
organisation of the 'National Convention of Gospel Choirs
and Choruses and Smaller Musical Groups, Inc.' by Thomas
Dorsey, Sallie Martin, Theodore Frye, Magnolia Butts and
Henry J. Carruthers with the initial meeting held at the
Pilgrim Baptist Church, Chicago.
- National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses
Baptist Church, Chicago.
by the Golden Gate Quartet
On 4th August 1937 the very popular and
influential Golden Gate Quartet cut fourteen tracks in one
session with RCA Victor in Charlotte, North Carolina. The
very first number 'Golden Gate Gospel Train' was a
fore-taste of what was to become "quartet" singing to the
groups that came after them.
- Keith Briggs, Document Records DOCD-5472 Golden Gate Quartet Complete
Recordings 1937-38, Vol. 1 (http://www.document-records.com)
Million-Selling Gospel Record
Sister Rosetta Tharpe scores the first
million-selling gospel record with the hit single “This
Train.” Tharpe was the dominant gospel music performer of
the late 1930’s and 1940’s, mixing soulful guitar licks and
big band accompaniment with sacred lyrics.
gospel of the Hammond organ/piano combination
Whilst Mahalia Jackson had her pianist
Estelle Allen use a church organ on two tracks in 1937, it
was two years later in 1939 that composer and music
publisher Kenneth Morris introduced the Hammond B3 Organ and
piano combination to gospel music, the foundation of the
gospel sound for many years.
and Gospel Music, Cambridge University Press 2002
Apollo Records in New York
Apollo Records recorded many black gospel
artists such as Georgia Peach with The Harmonaires, Mahalia
Jackson, The Daniels Singers, Southern Harmonaires, Robert
Anderson, Robert Ross, Dixie Hummingbirds, Roberta Martin
Singers, Gospel All-Stars, Rev. B. C. Campbell, and others.
- The Apollo Records Story
Specialty Records in Los Angeles
Specialty Records recorded many black gospel
artists such as Sam Cooke and The Soul Stirrers, Original
Gospel Harmonettes, Alex Bradford, Chosen Gospel Singers,
Swan Silvertones, The Pilgrim Travellers, The Original Five
Blind Boys of Alabama, Brother Joe May, Dorothy Love Coates
& Original Gospel Harmonettes, Sister Wynona Carr, Rev.
James Cleveland, and others.
- The Specialty Records Story