School of Music


Doctor of Worship Studies (DWS)


Wayne Singleton


African American, Church Music




African American Church Music has a unique and robust history dating back to the era of the African Slave Trade. This project will focus on African American Church Music and its effect on the African American worship experience in the 21st century. The creation of spirituals and gospel music helped shape the doctrine and identity in the African American Church. However, its message of suffering and “longing to go home” has limited the worship experience of the African American demographic. Musical style, historical significance, and racial issues have played a significant role in shaping the African American worship experience. These factors have caused a significant gap within the African American Church amongst the old and young generations in which worship has become stagnant. This qualitative research study will identify unknown perspectives concerning African American Church Music and how it has shaped the African American worship experience. By interviewing members of two predominant African American Churches located in Newport News, Virginia (First Baptist Church Denbigh and Refuge Nation Church), this project will convey a plethora of worship experiences by different generations in the African American community. History shows how slaves were not able to worship freely. However, today’s African American Church is able to experience free, liberating, and multi-generational worship. The overall goal of this project is to convey how the historical and traumatic events faced by African Americans influences preferred music styles in two predominant African American churches.

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