Fortress Press

Protest and Praise: Sacred Music of Black Religion

Protest and Praise

Sacred Music of Black Religion

Jon Michael Spencer (Author)


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Here is a skillful tracing of two tracks in the evolution of musical genres that have evolved from black religion. Songs of protest developed from the spiritual through social-gospel hymnody to culminate in songs of the civil-rights movement and the blues. Born in rebellion, they envision the Kingdom of God.
Songs of praise, by contrast, express adoration. Beginning with the "ring-shout," Spencer follows the history of intoned declamation through the tongue song, Holiness-Pentecostal music, and the chanted sermon of the black preacher. Spencer's approach, termed theomusicology, unlocks the wealth of African-American sacred music with a theological key. The result is a fascinating account of a people's struggle with God in history.
  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9780800624040
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 276
  • Publication Date February 1, 1990


"Protest and Praise is the story of the coming of age of African America, seen through the prism of its music. A generation ago John Hope Franklin immortalized black history by chronicling the travail and triumphs of the African-American odyssey from slavery to freedom. Now Jon Michael Spencer adds to that immortal chronicle a new dimension: a searching analysis of the part black music played in this historic transition. The spiritual, the ring shout, the blues, the freedom songs, and gospel are all intensive expressions of the will to freedom and of the faithful response to the divine initiative that alone could make freedom a viable possibility. Jon Spencer's Protest and Praise is a valuable addition to the growing literature of scholarly self-examination from inside the black experience."
--C. Eric Lincoln
Professor of Religion and Culture, Duke University

"Jon Michael Spencer's analysis probes sacred and secular space and broadens the focus of inquiry for students of African-American music and religious history. In the tradition of John Lovell, Wyatt Tee Walker, and James Cone, he invites us to view African-American music as a theology of human liberation and as a valuable liberationist reading of God's word. Spencer's helpful, holistic perspective highlights the tradition's unity in the quest for freedom."
--Cheryl Townsend Gilkes
Colby College