Pub. Date:
The University of North Carolina Press
Singing in My Soul: Black Gospel Music in a Secular Age / Edition 1

Singing in My Soul: Black Gospel Music in a Secular Age / Edition 1

by Jerma A. JacksonJerma A. Jackson
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Black gospel music grew from obscure nineteenth-century beginnings to become the leading style of sacred music in black American communities after World War II. Jerma A. Jackson traces the music's unique history, profiling the careers of several singers—particularly Sister Rosetta Tharpe—and demonstrating the important role women played in popularizing gospel.

Female gospel singers initially developed their musical abilities in churches where gospel prevailed as a mode of worship. Few, however, stayed exclusively in the religious realm. As recordings and sheet music pushed gospel into the commercial arena, gospel began to develop a life beyond the church, spreading first among a broad spectrum of African Americans and then to white middle-class audiences. Retail outlets, recording companies, and booking agencies turned gospel into big business, and local church singers emerged as national and international celebrities. Amid these changes, the music acquired increasing significance as a source of black identity.

These successes, however, generated fierce controversy. As gospel gained public visibility and broad commercial appeal, debates broke out over the meaning of the music and its message, raising questions about the virtues of commercialism and material values, the contours of racial identity, and the nature of the sacred. Jackson engages these debates to explore how race, faith, and identity became central questions in twentieth-century African American life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807855300
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 04/19/2004
Edition description: 1
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 945,764
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Jerma A. Jackson is associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

[Jackson's] book, for all its brevity, is the clearest, most searchingly analytic and thoroughly contextualized telling yet of black gospel music's great story—its move, often led by women, from social, theological, and musical margins to the center of the entertainment industry and of African-American accomplishment.—Arkansas Historical Quarterly

If you enjoy Gospel music, you'll enjoy this book. . . . From Thomas A. Dorsey . . . to contemporary icons, the author offers profiles and insightful research.—Gospel Today

Those of us who enjoy blues- and jazz-inflected Gospel—classic or contemporary—owe a debt of gratitude to Jerma A. Jackson for writing this book.—Sing Out!

Documenting the intersections of race, gender, and culture, as well as the traditions of the church and the community as they relate to black gospel music, makes Jackson's work a rich contribution to the music history of African Americans.—Journal of African American History

[Jackson] traces [gospel music's] history, tersely telescoping information gained from archival work, historically important participants, and the sources listed in the splendid bibliography. . . . Highly recommended.—Choice

Jackson's treatment of black gospel music, particularly the struggles over style and context, is especially valuable because it demonstrates the degree to which American Christians, regardless of race, fretted and debated over the same fundamental issues. . . . Singing in My Soul fills a void in the scholarship of religious music and reminds scholars that the context within which gospel music emerged and developed is crucial to our understanding.—Florida Historical Quarterly

Jackson thoroughly explores largely uncharted territory. The souls of scholars, historians and students of gospel music will surely sing at work that not only moves the spirit, but also educates the mind.—Black Issues Book Review

Emphasizes the fascinating connections between sacred and secular forms of black music. . . . Enlightening.—Ethnomusicology

Engaging for its fresh approach and solid evidentiary base.—Journal of Southern History

I heard Sister Rosetta Tharpe sing for the first time as a youngster in 1949 when she and Madame Marie Knight gave a concert in the ballpark of Sanford, Florida. Little did I know at that time that as surely as Thomas A. Dorsey, the 'Father of Gospel Music,' by organizing gospel choirs in churches and schools, was carving out a gospel world, Sister Tharpe, the first gospel superstar, by singing gospel in ballparks, stadiums, and even New York's Apollo Theatre, was forging a highway to that world by creating sacred space wherever she sang. The complete story is in Singing in My Soul. Read it and discover the truth.—Horace Clarence Boyer, author of The Golden Age of Gospel


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