Baylor University Is Now Collecting and Preserving Sermons From Black Civil Rights Era Preachers

The Black Gospel Music Restoration Project at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, was established to identify, acquire, preserve, record, and catalogue the most at-risk music from the Black gospel music tradition from the 1940s to the 1980s. In addition to preserving in digital format these gospel recordings, the archive includes press photos and press packets, taped interviews, informal photographs, tour books and programs, newspaper and magazine clippings, and sheet music.

Now the project is branching out to find and preserve recorded sermons by Black preachers. Many of these sermons had been recorded on vinyl. Some records were just a Black preacher preaching for two and a half minutes on each side and they sold half a million copies – even during the Great Depression.

“All Black preachers sing, and all Black singers preach,” notes Robert Darden, a professor of journalism, public relations and new media at Baylor and the director of the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project. “That got me thinking – nobody has been collecting the Black preaching from the Civil Rights movement, other than Dr. King. All these incredible heroes who were preaching around the rest of the country, there’s not a collection of their work. So, I met with the other folks in the Black Gospel project, and we agreed that in addition to the music, we ought to be trying to collect preaching.”

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