By: Aryanna Lawson


Gospel music emerged in the twentieth century, and evolved into African American religious music. Gospel music emerged from urban cities such as Chicago, Detroit, and New York. There were many elements that contributed to the characteristics of gospel music, such as the jubliee quartetts and negro spirituals, but it was not until the 1930’s when the term “gospel music” was used to describe gospel and its style. Gospel music can be traced all the way to 17th century, with origins in hymns and spirituals. This was also the time when gospel music became very popular among the black community and the US. Overall, gospel music has had a major influence on black people and our culture as a whole. 



Gospel music consist of strong and loud vocals with Christian or religious related lyrics.  Gospel music could be sung either by an soloist or an entire choir. Some typical instruments that were used in gospel music are organs, pianos, drums, and guitar. Call and response has been apart of African American music since we arrived to the America’s and that is another major characteristic of gospel music. Most churches used and hand clapping and foot stomping as a way to involve but also create a melody that the singers and audience could sing to. 

Social Implications

Gospel music is made is to uplift and encourage people to become followers of Christ, while bringing hope and salvation to people who are non- believers.  Gospel music lead many African Americans to the development of many congregations and the Church of God in Christ,COGIC. COGIC is now the largest Pentecostal denomination.  


The first publication  of what was considered a Gospel Song was a songbook in 1874 by John Phillips, Gospel Songs. A collection of Hymns and Tunes. This book was used to describe the new style of church music and came from a mass revival of gospel singers during the 1870s. Sister Roseta Thorpe was an popular singer who sang many genres, gospel being one of them and she was the first great recording star of gospel music. This revival movement employed popular singers and authors such as Ira D. Sankey. The popularity of the revival and its singer lead to establishment of gospel music publishing house. 


 Thomas A. Dorsey also known as “The father of Gospel” became a major influence within the genre of gospel. Before committing his life to gospel, Dorsey was a jazz and blues composer. His knowledge of jazz and blues allowed him to create the gospel music that combined elements from jazz and blues.  One of Thomas. A Dorsey most famous compositions is titled, “Precious Lord, Take my hand”. This song was performed by many legends such as Mahilia Jacksonn who was known as “The Queen of Gospel”. Ms. Jackson was on of the most influential gospel singers and the world and was also a civil rights activist. 

Thomas A. Dorsey


Gospel song sung by Mahalia Jackson