Music, in many different forms, is an integral part of African American religious life.  Early worship featured spirituals, songs created spontaneously by Africans as they worked.  Since the early 1900s, gospel music has been important.  Throughout, traditional hymns have been sung as well.  Today, African American churches embrace a wide range of musical expression.

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Senior Choir, Bethel A.M.E. Church, Wilmington, 1934

Senior Choir, Bethel A.M.E. Church, Wilmington
November 4, 1934
Sanborn Collection,
Delaware Historical Society

 

 

This choir began in the church’s early days when an activity as simple and seemingly innocent as singing God’s praises was an act of assertion and liberation.  According to the church’s 1934 Souvenir Booklet, “A splendid heritage has been left them by the valor of perseverance and patriotism of the men and women of the early Church who, though compassed about by hate, prejudice and the effect of abominable slave-laws yet in 1846, a few months after the Church was organized, these brave men and women joined and duly organized a Church Choir.”
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The African Union Hymn Book, 1839

The African Union Hymn Book
Third edition, 1839
Courtesy of Lewis V. Baldwin

Additional images shown right

African Union Hymn Book, Preface

African Union Hymn Book, Preface continued

African Union Hymn Book, Page 93

African Union Hymn Book, Page 94

Peter Spencer, William Anderson, James Hill, and Isaac Barney chose these hymns from a variety of sources to reflect the spiritual needs and concerns of members of the African Union Church.  As was the custom with all early hymnals, this one contains only words, and no music.
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Choir, Shiloh Baptist Church, Wilmington

Choir, Shiloh Baptist Church,
Wilmington
Ca. late 1940s-early 1950s
Courtesy of Shiloh Baptist Church

 
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Choir, New Destiny Fellowship

Choir, New Destiny Fellowship,
Wilmington
Ca. 1985
Courtesy of New Destiny Fellowship

 
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Children's Choir, Bethel A.M.E. Church, Wilmington

Children's Choir,
Bethel A.M.E. Church,
Wilmington
Courtesy of Bethel A.M.E. Church
 
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Choir, Mount Carmel Methodist Church, Wilmington

Choir,
Mount Carmel Methodist Church,
Wilmington
Before 1942

Courtesy of Ezion-Mount Carmel
United Methodist Church

 

 

 

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