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Wade in the Water is a 26-part series, originally released in 1994, that celebrates African American sacred music and traditions. To learn more about the series, click here.

Composers like Harry T. Burleigh, Nathaniel Dett and William Dawson, who applied Western classical music training to the traditional spiritual and created a new repertoire for the concert stage.

Song List

  • Howard University Choir, "Wade in the Water"
  • Florida A&M University Choir, "There is a Balm in Gilead"

The struggle of African Americans seeking careers as professional classical music concert artists, featuring Roland Hayes, Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman, Kathleen Battle and others.

Song List

  • Howard University Choir, "Wade in the Water"
  • Roland Hayes, "I'm So Glad Trouble Don't Last Always"

The prolific composer and teacher who encouraged new talent, created the repertoire and expanded gospel's audience through the largest African American organization: the National Baptist Convention.

Song List

  • Sweet Honey in the Rock, "Wade in the Water"
  • Soul Stirrers, "Jesus Gave Me Water"

The first gospel drama playwright, producer and composer, whose compositions were the first million-record sellers in gospel music.

Song List

  • Golden Gate Quartet, "Wade in the Water"
  • Clara Ward and the Ward Singers, "Surely God is Able"
  • Mahalia Jackson, "Move on Up a Little Higher"

The "father of gospel music," whose efforts led to an innovative performance style and refashioned existing music to reflect experiences of African Americans who migrated to urban communities.

Song List

  • Staple Singers, "Wade in the Water"
  • Donald Vails and the Celebration Delegation, "Highway to Heaven"

The contributions made by composer-musicians Roberta Martin and Kenneth Morris, who continued Thomas Dorsey's work.

Song List

  • Dorothy Love Coates and the Gospel Harmonettes, "Wade in the Water"
  • Roberta Martin, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus"
  • Roberta Martin Singers, "God is Still on the Throne"

Shout songs, drums, clapping, horns and choral chants that fed the evolution of 20th century gospel music.

Song List

  • Dorothy Love Coates and the Gospel Harmonettes, "Wade in the Water"
  • Edwin Hawkins, "I'm Encouraged"
  • James Cleveland and Aretha Franklin, "Yes Lord"
  • Bishop Samuel Kelsey, "Heaven is Mine"

The connecting lines between sacred and secular, explored through performances, texts, careers, recordings and the audiences who shared, exchanged and crossed over.

Song List

  • Ramsey Lewis, "Wade in the Water"
  • BeBe and CeCe Winans, "Heaven"
  • Delta Rhythm Boys, "Certainly Lord"

Music without words, an experience of the power of instrumental African American sacred music.

Song List

  • Hue, "Wade in the Water"
  • Edwin Hawkins Singers, "Lift the Savior Up"
  • Harlem United House of Prayer, Brass Band Music
  • Arizona Dranes, "God's Got a Crown"
  • Mahalia Jackson, "Didn't It Rain"

Jazz as sacred music within and beyond the boundaries of the organized African American church.

Song List

  • Eric Reed, "Wade in the Water"
  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band, "When the Saints Go Marching In"
  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band, "Just a Closer Walk with Thee"
  • Rahsaan Roland Kirk, "Red Beans and Rice"

Jazz as sacred music within and beyond the boundaries of the organized African American church.

Song List

  • Brother Ah, "Wade in the Water"
  • Pharoah Sanders, "Kazuko"
  • Pharoah Sanders, "The Creator Has a Master Plan"
  • Sun Ra, "Saturn"
  • Sun Ra, "Enlightenment"

Virtuoso performances created by masters and documented through audio recordings that set the mold for specific vocal and performance styles.

Song List

  • Gospel Harmonettes, "Wade in the Water"
  • Gospel Harmonettes, "Get Away Jordan"
  • Gospel Harmonettes, "You Can't Hurry God"
  • Davis Sisters, "Keeping Me Alive"

Code Switch Book Club, Summer 2019

Jun 20, 2019

A few of the great books that our listeners recommend for summer reading.
Shereen Marisol Meraji / NPR

So, Fam: We ask

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The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

 It was a logical step for a state that granted suffrage rights years before.   

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House Holds Hearing On Reparations

Jun 19, 2019

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For the first time in a decade Congress will hold a hearing Wednesday on the subject of reparations for the descendants of slaves in the United States, a topic that has gained traction in the run-up to the 2020 elections.

The hearing is set for June 19, also known as "Juneteenth," the day when in 1865 former enslaved people in Texas first learned that they had been emancipated two years earlier.

Why did Reconstruction fail? It's a heady question for American historians — not least because despite seminal scholarship on the subject, from W.E.B. Du Bois' Black Reconstruction in America and Eric Foner's Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, key elements are still missing in our narratives about Reconstruction.

An NPR investigation has uncovered new evidence in a prominent unsolved murder case from the civil rights era, including the identity of an attacker who admitted his involvement but was never charged.

The murder of Boston minister James Reeb in 1965 drew national attention at the time and spurred passage of the Voting Rights Act, which outlawed the Jim Crow voting practices that had disenfranchised millions of black Americans.

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Annie E. Casey Foundation

Looking at the well-being of Illinois’ children through a racial lens … shows big disparities, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual KIDS count report.

Racial disparities show up on measures of health, educational achievement, and economic well-being.

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Dr. Ayaz Virji was a Muslim living in small-town, white America.

He had left a good job in a leadership position at a successful hospital in Harrisburg, Penn., in order to practice medicine in a rural, underserved area.

Virji says he "had the BMWs, the nice house, but it wasn't enough for me, I wanted to do more." Rural America faces a shortage of doctors, with many residents forgoing care and saying locations are too far away. "So I felt like I should do something about that. And it was back to the idea: If not me, then who?" he says.

Exactly two months to the day after a fire blazed through the roof and spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the church celebrated its first Mass on Saturday.

Instead of his traditional miter hat, the archbishop of Paris wore a white, hard hat, along with about 30 others in attendance.

The Mass was closed to the public for security reasons, and those there were mostly clergy and people who work on the site.

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