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

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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

Jackson shows how over the 20th century, black gospel music remained sacred but also became an important source of black identity. She argues that its recognition outside of the church raised tensions that show how African Americans made sense of social and cultural developments that unfolded during the twentieth century.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807855300
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 4/19/2004
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.18 (w) x 8.22 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

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

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
Ch. 1 Exuberance or restraint : music and religion after reconstruction 8
Ch. 2 I just do what the lord say : gospel as women's missionary work 27
Ch. 3 Churches and entrepreneurs : the grassroots campaign for gospel 50
Ch. 4 With her spirituals in swing : Sister Rosetta Tharpe, gospel, and popular culture 77
Ch. 5 Between religion and commerce : gospel in the postwar era 103
Epilogue 133
Notes 143
Bibliography 167
Index 185
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