The year 2021 marks fifty years since the death of one of gospel music’s most iconic figures, Mahalia Jackson, arguably the first modern gospel artist to achieve international celebrity. The year of Jackson’s death also saw the publication of the pioneering gospel music study, The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times, a work foundational to both popular and academic writing about gospel music performance and the tradition of Black sacred sounds, spiritualities, and embodiments The Gospel Sound considers. Against this backdrop of influences, the Gospel Materialities Working Group shall explore the relationship of the sound and extra-sonic aesthetics of Black gospel to the social and political movements of the moment (i.e. Black Lives Matter, #Sayhername, etc). Further (and perhaps more centrally), the working group shall attend to gospel’s other, earlier materialities in print and visual cultures, audio technologies, film and video, architectural acoustics, radio broadcasts, embodied performance, and archival preservation. The group subheading, archive and repertoire, refers to the concern in formal and vernacular studies of gospel music with memory, archival preservation, and repertory performance as practices of citationality and improvisation.
Maurice Wallace is associate professor of English at Rutgers. His fields of expertise include African American literature and cultural studies, nineteenth-century American literature, the history and representation of American slavery, and gender studies. He is the author of Constructing the Black Masculine: Identity and Ideality in African American Men’s Literature and Culture, 1775-1995, a book on the history of black manhood in African American letters and culture, and is co-editor with Shawn Michelle Smith of a volume of scholarly articles on early photography and African American identity entitled Pictures and Progress: Early Photography and the Making of African-American Identity. Professor Wallace has served on the editorial boards for American Literature and Yale Journal of Criticism and is a contributing editor to James Baldwin Review. His current research and writing agendas include a monograph on the religious life and leanings of Frederick Douglass, and a critical exploration into the sound of Martin Luther King Jr.’s voice. Professor Wallace also teaches in areas of visual culture and sound studies.