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African-American Gospel Music

Deacon Albert Likely

Deacon Albert Likely lining out from Dr. Watts hymns at the Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, Detroit. The technique of lining out originated in English and colonial American churches during the18th century when books were scarce and many churchgoers did not read music. Photo by David Perry.

African-American gospel music builds upon West African performance practices, Anglo-American hymnody, and the African-American spirituals and blues of the rural South. As blacks migrated North to developing industrial cities between the two world wars, they brought their sacred musical traditions with them. However, a new gospel music more suited to urban life soon emerged in the Holiness, Pentecostal, "storefront" Baptist and Methodist Churches of urban black neighborhoods. These churches used instrumental accompaniment, chorus and verse structure, and call and response to create a more emotional and spirit-filled musical expression. Developed and popularized by such pioneers as Thomas A. Dorsey ("The Father of Gospel Music"), Sallie and Roberta Martin, and Mahalia Jackson, gospel music now is recognized as an original American music form.

Image of music bar

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