Key dates and significant events in the evolution of gospel music …
Key dates and significant events in the evolution of gospel music …
First African slaves on mainland North America
Whilst the 1619 date is well documented, the first black slaves to be landed in the Americas were brought to the Caribbean (Hispaniola) by the Spanish in 1526 and even earlier by the Portuguese in 1502.
Ainsworth Psalter brought to America by the Pilgrims
Bay Psalm Book printed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
|Hymnist and theologian Isaac Watts (1674-1748) is born in England.
The 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.”
|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, 1654).
|1707||English 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.
|1739||American 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.
Institution of first African American church in Savannah, Georgia
Establishment of the Revival Spiritual with the ‘Kentucky Revival’ or ‘Second Great Awakening’|
“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).
Rev. Richard Allen publishes the widely used hymnal ‘Collection of Spiritual Songs and Hymns’|
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.
|1841||First 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.
|1844||The Sacred 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.
|1867||First publication 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.)
– Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
|1871||First tour by the Fisk Jubilee Singers
The 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.”
The 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 which all slaves 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
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 Britain.
– UK Bible Students (http://www.ukbiblestudents.co.uk/)
First Published 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
|1880||Organisation of black Baptist congregation into the National Baptist Convention, USA
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 Atlanta, Georgia. – National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. (http://www.nationalbaptist.com)
Repeal of 1875 Civil Rights Act, enabling segregationist practices
|1896||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 equal” doctrine.
Founding of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC)
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)
|1903||Victor Talking 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.
First publication 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.
The Azusa Street Revival|
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.
|1909||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 President 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)
|1916||First Publication of a collection of solo arrangements of spirituals
“Jubilee Songs of The United States of America” by Harry T. Burleigh
|1916||First Publication of a collection of gospel hymns written by a black songwriter
“New Songs of Paradise” by Charles A. Tindley
|1916||Homer 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.
|1920||Establishment of ‘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)
|1921||First publication of Gospel Pearls
The National Baptist Convention publishes the songbook Gospel Pearls, the first hymnal from a major African American denomination to include selections of the new music that would become known as gospel.
|1921||First US 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)
|1923||Earliest field 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)
|1926||Arizona Dranes’ key recordings defining gospel piano style
“Arizona Dranes is the most important performer for introducing ‘hot’ piano style to African American gospel music,”
– music historian David Evans.
“The first musical star of the Church of God in Christ, a Memphis-based Pentecostal sect that pioneered foot-stomping music, Dranes and her lost-in-the-spirit outbursts laid the blueprint for rock ‘n’ roll”.
– Michael Corcoran
First recording 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 1926-1928 (http://www.document-records.com)
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
|1927||Blind Willie Johnson records ‘Dark was the Night, Cold was the Ground‘
‘Dark 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 Chicago|
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
First recordings 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)
First 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.
Introduction to 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.
– Blues and Gospel Music, Cambridge University Press 2002
|1944||Formation of 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
|1945||Formation of 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