July 6, 2022

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WATCH: Black women have been the backbone of the Black church ‘from the very beginning’

While the “backbone of the church has been Black women almost from the very beginning,” historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. said, their roles have both been suppressed within the church and forgotten when recounting its history.

In his latest documentary series and book, “The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song,” Gates examines the cultural institution within Black communities. He explains how the Black Church has played such a vital role in Black liberation, since its beginnings. And along with viewing the Black church through a critical eye and exploring its origin, the new PBS series also pays tribute to the often overlooked work of Black women for the Black church.

“The church is a very human institution,” Gates said, “and the Black church is no exception to that.”
Two Black women featured in his documentary series — Nannie Helen Burroughs and Mahalia Jackson — separately contributed to two of the greatest movements in America, women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement.

PBS will air “The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song” on Feb. 16 and 17.

Nannie Helen Burroughs: Photos courtesy of Library of Congress
Mahalia Jackson: Photos courtesy of Michael Ochs Archives and JP Jazz Archive

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