After reading the article ‘Preaching on Wax: The Phonograph and the Shaping of Modern African American Religion’ by Martin, and watching his videos ‘Black Spiritual Music’ and ‘Left of Black’, I feel I learned a lot about the black spiritual religious scene throughout history. I felt I wanted to know a bit more about Martin after reading and watching his articles and videos, however, so I found an interesting article about him.
Martin has won a host of awards in regards to his teaching and research, and is very well known in his field.
Martin spoke about the commoditization of spirituals and preachers, and how spirituals originally spread through preachers who travelled around. To gain popularity, preachers would often use celebrities to publicize their works to spread awareness of their sermons. Reverend Gates, writer of ‘Death’s Black Train is Coming’, made his own path in life by not signing to a record company; this allowed him to make money how he chose and with whomever he chose.
In terms of how these spirituals came to be, many of them were created as songs of hope or work songs. This knowledge leads me to wonder, what type of song is “Death’s Black Train is Coming’? Is it a song to help people not be afraid of death or a song that threatens death or hell on those who do not believe in G-d? Maybe it is a little of both. Either way, it seems like it is different than other sermons of the time. I do not know much about sermons in general, however Martin mentioned in his article that many sermons initially introduce a problem, then says that it will be alright, thus encouraging crowds to celebrate, leading me to believe that ‘Death’s Black Train is Coming’ is an unusual sermon for its time.