The latest series from Henry Louis Gates, Jr. digs deep into the origin story of Black spirituality in “GOSPEL” starting June 20 at 9 pm

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AIRING JUNE 20 and 27, 2024

Explore the Origin of Black Spirituality Through Sermon and Song


Thursday, June 20

9:00 pm Part One “The Gospel Train”

GOSPEL’s hour 1 takes viewers north to Chicago, where southern migrants Thomas A. Dorsey, Mahalia Jackson and Sister Rosetta Tharpe fused blues and jazz with testimonies of God’s goodness to create a genre enduring for generations.

10:00 pm Part Two: “Golden Age of Gospel”

Starting in the 40s, GOSPEL’s hour 2 explores the Golden Age of Gospel — the dramatic explosion of Black sacred music and the segregated highways of the American South — which took the Lord’s music into the mainstream.


GOSPEL reunites acclaimed Harvard scholar and documentarian Gates with directors Stacey L. Holman and Shayla Harris after recently

Tyrell Bell and the Belle Singers, featuring Ian Johnson, perform "Can't Nobody Do Me Like Jesus", for GOSPEL. Credit: McGee Media

Tyrell Bell and the Belle Singers, featuring Ian Johnson, perform “Can’t Nobody Do Me Like Jesus”, for GOSPEL.
Credit: McGee Media

From the blues to hip-hop, African Americans have been the driving force of sonic innovation for over a century. Musical styles come and go, but there is one sound that has been a constant source of strength, courage, and wisdom from the pulpit to the choir lofts on any given Sunday: the gospel.

In GOSPEL, Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, speaks with dozens of clergymen, singers and scholars about their connection to the music that has transcended its origins and now spreads “the good word” all around the world. The series features interviews with notable names including Dionne Warwick, U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock, Rev. Otis Moss III, professor Michael Eric Dyson, and awe-inspiring musical performances of Gospel favorites “Can’t Nobody Do Me Like Jesus,” “Total Praise,” and others from talents including The Belle Singers, Cory Henry, Celisse, and more.

Gospel is more than the soundtrack of the African American experience, “it’s the beating heart and soul,” said Gates. “From the Great Migration to today, the history of Black gospel music and preaching is one of constant movement, and it’s long been a dream of mine to bring it to public television. We’re blessed to have such outstanding partners in delivering this series and concert at a time in our nation when the need for Gospel’s transcendent, healing powers is so great.”

Stacey L. Holman and Shayla Harris, the series producers and directors, said, “It was such an honor to reunite with the incredible team that produced THE BLACK CHURCH on another powerful examination of Black spiritual expression for PBS. For centuries, the sacred sounds of gospel music and Black preaching have testified to God’s goodness and grace while embracing the rhythms and riffs of blues, jazz and hip-hop. They were the way that African Americans found their voice and their power in a strange land and have resonated far beyond the church’s walls. By weaving intimate interviews with dynamic live gospel performances throughout the series, we want our viewers to fully experience and be energized by this uniquely African American art form of prayer, praise and promise.”

Dionne Warwick
Dionne Warwick

“I’m so grateful to have been able to work again with the incredible team of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Stacey L. Holman, and Shayla Harris,” remarked executive producer Dyllan McGee. “They’ve created yet another impactful and important series that invites audiences to enjoy and celebrate the sounds of gospel.”

PBS’s Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, Sylvia Bugg said “GOSPEL celebrates a treasured genre of music that has influenced African American culture and communities, and we are excited for audiences to join Professor Gates on this joyous exploration into a very unique and ardent art form. This four-hour series also expands upon PBS’s efforts to engage communities across America, helping to build greater awareness and understanding.”

Throughout its four hours, GOSPEL gives a look at the history of Black religious music and preaching, showcasing the symbiotic relationship of words and song present in any Black church. The series examines the origin of Black gospel music, which blended the sacred spirituals with the blues tradition and soared to new heights during the Great Migration. This music served as an outlet for the anger and frustration of living as a Black person in America, which remains true today. The series also explores the evolution of preaching styles over time, and the impact of class, gender, cultural innovations, and consumer technologies shaped the development of gospel since its conception.