Throughout my career, scholarship on African American religious music has described and critiqued both the tradition of spirituals as well as gospel music, the two indigenous forms that have served as the public face of African American religious identity throughout history. These two expansive genres, which over time produced multiple subgenres, have historically generated oppositional responses from both within and outside its cultural milieu. These were musics that prompted both pride and pain among African Americans themselves.

These genres, the first a late eighteenth-century development and the latter a product of the early twentieth century, also generated international and cross-cultural interest, prompting imitation and veneration, while concomitantly suffering the burden of invisibility, misinterpretation, degradation, consumption, misuse, and, too frequently, downright abuse.

My objective today is to explore how African American religious musics have been characterized in various accounts of their earliest manifestation during the period of slavery to the present...

You do not currently have access to this content.