The Great Migration’s Influence on Gospel Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Many people are not aware of the impact that the Great Migration had on the development of Gospel music. This blog post will explore how this movement influenced the genre.

The Great Migration

The Great Migration, which took place between 1916 and 1970, saw the movement of six million African Americans from the rural south to the urban north. This mass movement of people had a profound impact on many aspects of American life, including music. Gospel music, in particular, was profoundly influenced by the Great Migration.

The Push Factors

The Great Migration was the movement of 6 million African Americans out of the rural Southern United States to the urban Northeast, Midwest, and West from 1916 to 1970. Driven from their homes by unsatisfactory economic opportunities and racial prejudice, many blacks hoped to find a better life in the North. Although the Great Migration caused a significant increase in urban black populations, it also brought new problems. In Northern cities, blacks encountered housing discrimination and limited educational and employment prospects.

The migration had a significant impact on gospel music. Many gospel artists migrated north along with the rest of the black population, bringing southern gospel traditions with them. This resulted in a new style of gospel music that combined elements of southern gospel with the more urban sounds of blues and jazz. This new style came to be known as “soulful gospel.” Gospel artists such as Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland, and Clara Ward helped to popularize this new sound, which became extremely popular in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Pull Factors

One of the main reasons why blacks decided to migrate was due to the fact that they were facing increasing racism and violence in the South. The end of reconstruction in 1877 marked the beginning of a new era known as Jim Crow, in which blacks were subjected to a systematic campaign of discrimination and violence. In some states, laws were passed that required blacks to use separate facilities from whites, such as schools, bathrooms, and drinking fountains. Blacks also faced restrictions on their right to vote, hold office, or serve on juries. Many whites justified these restrictions by claiming that blacks were inferior and needed to be kept in their place.

The situation for blacks in the South began to improve somewhat during the early 1900s, but then took a turn for the worse during the 1920s. This was due in part to the economic downturn known as the Great Depression, which hit blacks especially hard. In addition, there was a resurgence of white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), which terrorized black communities through violence and intimidation.

All of these factors led many blacks to seek out a better life by migrating to other parts of the country, particularly Northern cities. Once there, they found work in factories and other industries that were booming due to wartime production. They also found greater freedom from discrimination and violence. Additionally, they were able to take advantage of opportunities to participate in politics and other aspects of public life that had been closed off to them in the South.

The Impact of the Great Migration on Gospel Music

The Great Migration was a mass movement of African Americans from the rural south to the urban north from 1916 to 1970. This migration had a profound impact on American culture, including gospel music. Gospel music is a type of Christian music that originated in the African American community. It is characterized by its religious lyrics and soulful sound. The Great Migration gave rise to a new style of gospel music, known as urban gospel.

The Spread of Gospel Music

The migration of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North between 1915 and 1930 had a profound impact on American society and culture. One of the most significant outcomes of the Great Migration was the spread of gospel music from the southern states to the rest of the country.

African American church music had its roots in slavery, when slaves were not permitted to worship openly in white churches. Instead, they worshiped in secret, in fields or forests, or in their own homes. African American spirituals were songs that expressed their religious beliefs and their yearning for freedom.

During the Great Migration, many African Americans moved from southern states like Mississippi and Louisiana to northern cities like Chicago and New York. As they settled into their new communities, they brought their gospel music with them. In the north, they found opportunities to perform in churches, on street corners, and in nightclubs. They also found new audiences for their music, including white listeners who were curious about this new style of religious expression.

Over time, gospel music began to evolve as it was influenced by other genres, such as jazz and blues. This evolution continued after World War II, when many gospel musicians began to experiment with different styles and instruments. By the 1960s, gospel music had become an important part of the civil rights movement, as it was used to rally protesters and inspire hope. Today, gospel music is enjoyed by people of all races and cultures around the world.

The Evolution of Gospel Music

The Great Migration was a movement of African Americans who left the rural south in search of better opportunities and conditions in the north. This mass movement of people had a profound impact on many aspects of American life, including gospel music.

Gospel music is a genre that is rooted in the African American experience. It is a music of hope and joy, but also of pain and struggle. The Great Migration gave rise to new styles of gospel music, as well as new ways of performing and listening to the music.

In the early years of the Great Migration, many churches in the south were still segregated. This meant that there were separate churches for black and white people. However, as more and more African Americans moved to the north, they started to establish their own churches. These churches became places where people could gather to sing and worship together without restriction.

The rise of black churches in the north led to the development of new styles of gospel music. Northern gospel was more upbeat and lively than southern gospel. It also incorporated elements from other genres, such as jazz and blues. This new sound appealed to a wider audience, both black and white.

Gospel music continued to evolve during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. At this time, many gospel artists began to use their music to speak out against social injustice and inequality. They used it as a tool for empowering African Americans and promoting social change.

Today, gospel music is enjoyed by people all over the world. It has been especially popularized by contemporary artists such as Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary. Gospel music is no longer just for churchgoers; it is for everyone who wants to feel uplifted by its message of hope and love.


The Great Migration of the early twentieth century saw millions of African Americans leave the rural South in search of industrial jobs and better lives in the North. This massive population shift had a profound impact on gospel music, which became one of the most important cultural forces in America.

Gospel music was originally created by black Christians in the south as a way to express their faith and share their message with the world. The music was based on traditional spirituals and hymns, but it soon developed its own sound and style. Gospel music became increasingly popular in the north during the Great Migration, as blacks brought their musical traditions with them.

Gospel music quickly evolved during this time, becoming more formal and polished. It also became more commercialized, asrecord companies began to see its potential as a money-making genre. At the same time, gospel music retained its spiritual roots and continued to be an important part of black churches.

Today, gospel music is enjoyed by people of all races and religions. It has influenced other genres of music, such as rhythm and blues, soul, and hip hop. And it continues to be an important part of black culture and identity.

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