McNair/Gateway Scholars Program USC

Ebony Cunningham

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Major and Classification

Music

Faculty Mentors

  • Professor David Fick

Department

  • Music Theory

McNair Project

God Cannot Survive Without Music: The Indispensable Role Music Plays in Sustaining the Institution of the Black Church

Since the invisible institution of the Black church became a visible entity, the central role of Black sacred music has beckoned for scholarly attention. From the spirituals to 21st century gospel music, the musical component of the church has been its most prized possession and its most high-profile product in the marketplace of American popular culture. This study examines how Black sacred music has governed the growth of the Black church. I have studied the Black church through the lens of Black sacred music in three historical periods: the slave era, the Civil War and Reconstruction, and the 21st century. Through analysis of historical and musical texts, I have found that there is a directly proportional relationship between membership in the Black church and the expanding popularity and dominance of Black sacred music. Through further research, I will prove that the Black church would not exist were it not for its music, by conducting specific case studies at two Los Angeles churches. Through this research, I hope to expose the need for Black religious music in the Black church and promote Black sacred music as a reputable art form worthy of further scholarship.