The History of Gospel Music

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Music is an important aspect of every society. Music can tell stories, release emotions, build bridges and break down barriers, but above all music is entertaining. There are various forms of music but not many have as rich a history as gospel music. The importance of gospel music has been relevant in American music for more than a century and its importance to society is still relevant to this day (See Appendix A). Gospel music helped slaves escape to freedom and paved the way for other styles of music. It promotes a spirit of hope and provided an outlet to worship God. So how exactly has Gospel music impacted today’s society?

Music has been relevant in Christianity since its beginnings. Some of the first music was written in Latin and they were called Hymns. “Hymn is a song of praise” (Van Camp) and were sung only by catholic churches. When Martin Luther led the Protestant Reformation and helped create Protestant Christianity, he began translating hymns into German. All around Europe people were translating hymns into different languages. These translations were brought over by European settlers coming to America and were used frequently in both Catholic and Protestant churches.

Contemporary, as well as older, Gospel music originated from the “Spirituals.” The spirituals, also known as the “Negro Spirituals or African-American folk songs,” were religious songs sung by the African Americans slaves in Southern America. The spirituals spawned from teachings of Christianity from slave owners, the church and even hymns. The songs were usually about love, hope, peace, oppression, freedom and even used as a secret code. The African American slaves would sing while working so much so that slave o...

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Appendix A

Timeline for Gospel Music

1619- First record of African slaves in Colonial America brought as indentured servants

1786- All states, except Georgia, ban or limit importation of African slaves

1798- Georgia bans importation of African slaves

1810- Underground Railroad helps slaves escape to free states

1861- American Civil War begins

1863- President Abraham Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation

1865- American Civil War ends

1867- Collections of spirituals published, songs known now as Gospel

1870- Students, called Fisk Jubilee Singers, perform spirituals across the nation

1920- Evangelistic Movement integrates styles of music with gospel

1947- Music style combining jazz, gospel and blues named Rhythm & Blues

1948- Rhythm & Blues helps shape Rock and Roll

1960- Twenty million Americans move from the South over a sixty year period

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