GOSPEL, a new four-hour docuseries from executive producer, host, and writer Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., explores the rich history of Black spirituality through sermon and song. The series premieres on PBS, PBS.org, and the PBS App,  February 12 and 13, 2024, with a special companion concert premiering February 9.

GOSPEL reunites Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, with directors Stacey L. Holman and Shayla Harris. They teamed up recently on MAKING BLACK AMERICA: THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE.

In GOSPEL, Gates 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.”

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.

The gospel concert special, produced by McGee Media, Done + Dusted, and Friends at Work, celebrates gospel music and its extraordinary impact on culture and pop music. Featuring the biggest names in gospel music together with the biggest stars from the world of pop, R&B and beyond, the concert will be recorded in Los Angeles in front of a live audience and hosted by Gates. This one-hour PBS special, from showrunner Kristen V. Carter, will be inspired by and build excitement for GOSPEL.

Holman and 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.”

“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.”

GOSPEL concert showrunner Kristen V. Carter, said, “I am elated to partner with McGee Media, Done + Dusted, and Friends at Work to acknowledge, honor and celebrate the rich legacy of Gospel music and the contributions that this genre has made throughout history and culture. We are excited to bring gospel and secular artists together for this incredibly inspiring celebration!”

Check your local PBS listings for showtime information.

Disclosure: Journal of Gospel Music Editor-in-Chief Robert M. Marovich was interviewed and served as an advisor for GOSPEL.

4 Comments

  1. Michael Robertson February 8, 2024 at 3:14 pm - Reply

    I sure hope The Quartets were recognized as well..

  2. Michael Robertson February 8, 2024 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    My comment was I hope the Quartets we’re recognized as well.

    • Bob Marovich February 9, 2024 at 4:11 pm - Reply

      There’s a section on the Soul Stirrers, if my recollection serves me. Jerry Zolten talks about the Dixie Hummingbirds.

  3. Karen February 12, 2024 at 10:32 pm - Reply

    How can I find the song Celisse / duet sang / played at the end of the series on Monday/ Feb 12???? It was amazing!

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Written by : Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.