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Painting the GospelBlack Public Art and Religion in Chicago$
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Kymberly N. Pinder

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780252039928

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252039928.001.0001

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Painting the Gospel Blues

Painting the Gospel Blues

Race, Empathy, and Religion at Pilgrim Baptist Church

(p.25) Chapter 1 Painting the Gospel Blues
Painting the Gospel

Kymberly N. Pinder

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines William E. Scott's murals at Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago, including his 1936 Life of Christ series. Originally a synagogue designed by Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler in 1891, Pilgrim became the home of one the country's most politically influential black churches when sold to the congregation in 1920. In the 1930s Thomas A. Dorsey introduced blues singing into regular church services, making Baptist the birthplace of gospel music and one of the first megachurches in the United States. The chapter considers the support provided by Junius C. Austin, a prominent advocate of social change and black empowerment, to Scott's goals to create images that promoted black pride through a very conventional, representational painting style at Pilgrim Baptist Church. It also discusses the role of Scott and Dorsey in creating a visually and sonically inclusive atmosphere at the church. Finally, it highlights rebirth or resurrection, politically and socially, as the underlying theme of much of the rhetoric about the future of African Americans during the period.

Keywords:   murals, William E. Scott, Pilgrim Baptist Church, Life of Christ, Thomas A. Dorsey, gospel music, Junius C. Austin, black pride, African Americans, resurrection

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