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Nothing but Love in God’s Water: Volume 1: Black Sacred Music from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement

Robert Darden

The first of two volumes chronicling the history and role of music in the African American experience, Nothing but Love in God’s Water explores how songs and singers helped African Americans challenge and overcome slavery, subjugation, and suppression. From the spirituals of southern fields and the ringing chords of black gospel to the protest songs that changed the landscape of labor and the cadences sung before dogs and water cannons in Birmingham, sacred song has stood center stage in the African American drama. Myriad interviews, one-of-a-kind sources, and rare or lost recordings are used to examine this enormously persuasive facet of the movement. Nothing but Love in God’s Water explains the historical significance of song and helps us understand how music enabled the civil rights movement to challenge the most powerful nation on the planet.

Volume 2 of Nothing but Love in God's Water is also available on Fulcrum.

Nothing but Love in God’s Water: Volume 2: Black Sacred Music from Sit-Ins to Resurrection City

Robert Darden

Volume 1 of Nothing but Love in God’s Water traced the music of protest spirituals from the Civil War to the American labor movement of the 1930s and 1940s, and on through the Montgomery bus boycott. This second volume continues the journey, chronicling the role this music played in energizing and sustaining those most heavily involved in the civil rights movement.

Robert Darden, former gospel music editor for Billboard magazine and the founder of the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project at Baylor University, brings this vivid, vital story to life. He explains why black sacred music helped foster community within the civil rights movement and attract new adherents; shows how Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders used music to underscore and support their message; and reveals how the songs themselves traveled and changed as the fight for freedom for African Americans continued. Darden makes an unassailable case for the importance of black sacred music not only to the civil rights era but also to present-day struggles in and beyond the United States.

Taking us from the Deep South to Chicago and on to the nation’s capital, Darden’s grittily detailed, lively telling is peppered throughout with the words of those who were there, famous and forgotten alike: activists such as Rep. John Lewis, the Reverend Ralph Abernathy, and Willie Bolden, as well as musical virtuosos such as Harry Belafonte, Duke Ellington, and The Mighty Wonders. Expertly assembled from published and unpublished writing, oral histories, and rare recordings, this is the history of the soundtrack that fueled the long march toward freedom and equality for the black community in the United States and that continues to inspire and uplift people all over the world.