Date of Award

Summer 8-12-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. John McMillian

Second Advisor

Dr. Jacqueline Rouse


This thesis explores the relationship between black gospel music and the African American freedom struggle of the post-WWII era. More specifically, it addresses the paradoxical suggestion that black gospel artists themselves were typically escapist, apathetic, and politically uninvolved—like the black church and black masses in general—despite the “classical” Southern movement music being largely gospel-based. This thesis argues that gospel was in fact a critical component of the civil rights movement. In ways open and veiled, black gospel music always spoke to the issue of freedom. Topics include: grassroots gospel communities; African American sacred song and coded resistance; black church culture and social action; freedom songs and local movements; socially conscious or activist gospel figures; gospel records with civil rights themes.