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History of Black Gospel in Philadelphia

One of the countries that have been the center of African American religion is Philadelphia. One of the seminar figures who played a significant role in the development of Gospel in Philadelphia is Charles Albert Tindley (1851-1933). Albert moved to Philadelphia in the early twentieth century during the Great Migration. During this time, Gospel was not known since the black people were not many. However, the available black people started developing their ideology of a gospel that would help unite the people and spread love in the country. Since the early twentieth century was the Great Migration period, more blacks were expected to settle in the country. Following this, the African American population grew rapidly. In the beginning, the churches did not have as many followers. However, as the black population increased, the followers also increased, and it was now possible to find a church with several followers. Gospel is one of the things that united African Americans once they settled in Philadelphia. Once during this time, there was a lot of racial discrimination. It was better for the Black Americans to form their churches to worship freely and interact more. The essay will explore some of the aspects of the black Gospel in Philadelphia. Besides, the essay will also explore how the Gospel developed and how the Africa Americans spread the Gospel to other areas.

Charles Albert Tindley started the Black Gospel in Philadelphia. Albert moved from the south during the African American migration period. Albert was born in a Tindley family. He did not receive any formal education regarding Gospel; therefore, he was self-taught. He loved Christianity, and so he proposed to start preaching and singing to reach more people. In 1902, Albert became a Bain Bridge Street Methodist Episcopal Church pastor, which was later named the Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church (MCCARTHY, 2019). He was an excellent pastor as well as a good leader. During the time he was the pastor in the church, the congregation grew rapidly. Due to its enormous growth, the church moved to Broad and Fitzwater Streets. Later, the church was named the Tindley Temple, a name associated with its founder (MCCARTHY, 2019). The church had grown, and more people could now attend services freely. During this time, the African American people loved going to church as it was one of the places that helped unite them and show them that there is hope for a better future.

One of the things that helped Albert to spread the Gospel faster is songs. In 1901, Albert wrote songs and published them. This helped to spread the Gospel more and to reach a larger congregation. As a good singer and a good musician, it was easy for him to attract more people to his church. Also, songwriting, broadcasting and publishing songs made him more famous, and almost every Black American knew him as they loved his preaching and his music. Following this, Albert was a significant and influential figure in Gospel, not only in Philadelphia but also beyond. Albert wrote one of the most loved songs is “I Will Overcome Someday” (MCCARTHY, 2019). The song was related to the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.” The song had a significant impact on African Americans since they were going through a lot of discrimination and racism while in the United States of America. It was hard for the blacks to find new jobs or live in good places die from the rejection they faced from the American people. However, the songs gave them hope that the future would become better someday. They had faith that things will change for the best, and all the challenges they were facing in the native land will finally come to an end. He became more famous when six songs appeared in the Gospel Pearls. The collection of the songs was published in 1921 (MCCARTHY, 2019). This was one of the first collections whose aim was to spread the African American Gospel. Also, the collection helped the African American congregations to use ‘gospel’ as a title in their songs. Following this, we can say that Albert was the father of Gospel music, and he helped the Gospel spread in Philadelphia and beyond.

Philadelphia attracted so many black people during the civil war. The population of the African American people clustered more in South Philadelphia (Wolfinger & Arnold, 2017). However, the people faced a lot of racial discrimination, and it was hard for them to stay in the country. However, the more the people, the better it became for the black people to form black communities. Despite the African community’s problems while in Philadelphia, the community grew rapidly as more migrants were attracted. One of the things that helped the black community to unite and become one is the Gospel. Churches became the meeting points for the blacks to assemble and stay together. The blacks were now enjoying each other’s company, and it was easy for them to tolerate the problems they were facing in the country since they were united. The Gospel helped them to have hope for a better future. Through music, the African Americans in Philadelphia could become more united as they shared the message that the music spread (Wolfinger & Arnold, 2017). It was easier for them to cope with the high rates of discrimination, poverty and lack of employment since they were united and cared for each other.

Another thing that affected the black community is the formation of civil rights movements. According to PBS (n.d.), when the black people accepted the faith, it did not make them content slaves. Instead, the Gospel opened the people, making them see the possibilities available to those who see themselves as children of this eternal and almighty God (PBS, n.d.). Following this, we can say that the Gospel was like an eye-opener to the black community in Philadelphia. Most people realized that they should not be treated as unequal persons; instead, they should be respected and give equal opportunities just like everybody else. The black people learned that all people should be treated equally since we are all children of God. The realization had a significant impact on the African Americans, as they now anticipated to be treated better and to have the same resources and opportunities as the whites (PBS, n.d.). As a result, this prompted the blacks to form organizations and movements that would help them protest against discrimination and unfair treatment by their American hosts. The church was the leading platform of uniting the blacks; from the church, they would decide how they would protest since they now knew that they had the right to be treated well despite their origin or race. Following this, the church helped the people learn the importance of human rights and why they should be respected despite their race or color.

The rising of the Gospel in Philadelphia helped black Americans to fight for civil rights even before the nineteenth century. The people demanded that slavery be abolished, so that mistreatment of the black people would end. The civil rights activists fought for equal treatment, securing voting rights to all the people, slavery abolition, and gaining equal rights to access public transport since some blacks were not allowed to use public transport. One of the people who helped fight for the equal treatment of African Americans in Philadelphia is Richard Allen (Wolfinger & Arnold, 2017). Richard was the founder of the Free African Society. The main aim of this movement was fighting for the abolition of slavery in the country. Since the African Americans had already learnt the importance of equal treatment through Gospel, they were now ready to fight for their rights, even if it meant fighting to the death. Octavio Catto is one of the activists that helped Richard protest against unequal treatment of voting rights (Wolfinger & Arnold, 2017). Catto also worked hard to ensure that all people were carried using public transport regardless of their colour. According to Wolfinger & Arnold (2017), such activism helped protect the Black Americans in the city, which led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1875. However, the activist was assassinated as he tried to spread the news about the importance of having equal voting rights in 1871. This indicates that the activists faced many problems as their intentions were against the American belief s and want.

Gospel in Philadelphia affected the Africans positively. When the blacks were settling in Philadelphia, they faced a lot of discrimination, and they did not know how they would deal with it. Some of them assumed that discrimination was a way of life, so they thought the best way to deal with it was to get used. However, various activists came to their aid, which helped them to air their grievances. Through people like Charles Albert Tindley, the Black Americans could now use music to hope for a better future. The Gospel was one way that the people learned the importance of treating each other equally (MCCARTHY, 2019). Through the Gospel, it was easy for the African Americans to unite in churches and spread love. In Colonial Philadelphia, the African Americans sang sacred songs from their African homelands (MCCARTHY, 2019). Besides, the Africans had also composed newb European-derived hymns and psalms, which they infused with the African elements. This helped to create better songs that had meanings rooted in their experiences and circumstances. All these had a positive impact on the black people in Philadelphia. The Gospel helped them to know how to fight for their rights and to become better citizens. Through the Gospel, the African Americans learned the importance of obeying the set rules and regulations to avoid being on the wrong side of the law. Asa result, it was easy for them to exist and live harmoniously.

One of the core characteristics of the black Gospel in Philadelphia was music. The African American Music was euphoric, spiritual, and rhythmic (Johnson, 2017). The music helped to address the worldviews, cultures, experiences as well as theologies. Through music, the black Americans could express themselves more about their experiences while in America. Following this, music was highly regarded, and people loved listening to it. The life of the Black Americans used to improve daily. However, Gospel was the main component that had led to changes to the lives of black Americans. Therefore, music was just a way of spreading the Gospel, and it had a tremendous impact as it helped to emphasize what the preachers were telling their congregations. Following this, it is evident that the African American’s Gospel helped shape their lives and determine how their future would be. Currently, the rates of discrimination in the country are pretty minimal. As the gospel spread, more people came to learn about the importance of respecting and loving each other despite a person’s origin, race or colour (Johnson, 2017). Music was not just a source of entertainment; and instead, it was also a way of spreading knowledge and enhancing unity among the people. Through the years, the blacks have been accepted in the country where they were only seen as slaves and mistreated. However, through the efforts of human rights activists and preachers, African Americans can now enjoy their stay in the country as they are now treated equally and access to all the resources that they need. Therefore, music was a way of enhancing the Gospel. Its effects were felt more especially when the African Americans formed hymns with both American and African elements.

In conclusion, the black Gospel had a lot of impact on the lives of African Americans who had settled there during the great migration. During this time, life was hard for the people as they could not accept the essential things. Life was hard for them since they had a lot of struggles getting employment. The black Americans were mainly used as slaves; hence it was hard for them to access resources. Following this, the church became one of the platforms that helped the people to unite and share the problems they were facing out there. The church was like a place to run to. Following this, the church helped the people to become united, and they were ready to help each other overcome all the problems they were facing in their new home. Through the church, black Americans learned the importance of fighting for equal treatment. They formed songs that helped spread the news about their existence and the importance of being seen as equal to the whites. Through the Gospel, it was easy to let the people know that they are no less; hence they should not express their needs and wants. This helped a lot, like a lot of discriminating laws were abolished. Better laws were formed, which helped African Americans access things that they could not access before. For example, the activists aided the formation of the law that allowed all people to access public transport despite their race. Before this, black Americans were not allowed to use public transport, making it hard for them to move from one place to another. The black Gospel was a savior to the African American Community. They learned how to live as a community and learned how to fight for their rights and how to defend themselves in case of any mistreatments. Through songs, the African Americans spread the Gospel quickly, hence reaching more people.


Johnson, B. (2017, August 23). Gospel Music. Retrieved May 11, 2021, from,jazz%20rhythmic%20and%20harmonic%20influences

MCCARTHY, J. (2019, February 26). The Rich History of Black Gospel in Philadelphia. Retrieved May 11, 2021, from,turn%20of%20the%20twentieth%20century

PBS. (n.d.). Africans in America| Part 3 | Narrative: The Black church. Retrieved May 11, 2021, from

Wolfinger, J., & Arnold, S. K. (2017). Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia | Civil rights (African American). Retrieved May 11, 2021, from


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