Discover the History of Gospel Music on WITF TV
Dig into the history of Black spirituality through sermon and song with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. This four-hour long documentary series highlights the transformative influence that Black church choirs have had over the progression of Black music from blues to hip hop.
Episode 1 unearths the history of gospel’s blues and jazz roots. The gospel train begins in Chicago following Mahalia Jackson, Thomas A. Dorsey, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe who all migrated from the south and blended the sounds and instrumentation of blues and jazz with lyrics exalting God’s greatness. Although gospel, like jazz and blues have been commodified, the genre was built by Black-owned publishing companies and sustained by Black audiences.
Episode 2 explores ‘The Golden Age of Gospel’, which highlights gospel music’s deep connection to the struggle for civil rights. Black artists like Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, and Mahalia Jackson caused Black sacred music to explode in popularity even on the segregated highways of the 1940s. Discover the rich history of one of American’s longest-running and most influential musical genres.