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Jonathan Walton

Black televangelism is a catchall category to describe a range of Protestant and predominantly evangelical ministries that utilize television and/or Webcasts as the primary means of Christian proselytization. This form of religious expression exploded in the final quarter of the twentieth century and propelled the cultural celebrity and spiritual authority of leading televangelists such as Bishop T. D. Jakes and Creflo and Taffi Dollar. Hollywood motion pictures, gospel stage plays, and bestselling publications are just a few of the outgrowths of this ministry form.

Greater inclusion of African American evangelists on white owned conservative Christian networks such as Pat Robertson s Christian Broadcasting Network and Paul and Jan Crouch s Trinity Broadcasting Network can account for in part the expanded opportunities and increased visibility of select African American evangelists Couple this with the expansion of cable networks catering to primarily African American audiences such as Black Entertainment Television and ...


Lois Bellamy

gospel singer, songwriter, pianist, actor, and humanitarian, was born in San Antonio, Texas, to a barber and a seamstress. His parents’ names are not recorded. He sang his first song at the age of five and began singing, as a teenager, at the Refugee Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ in San Antonio. He also began studying classical piano at the same age. Dixon attended a local Catholic college on a scholarship but dropped out to pursue a music career. He began touring at seventeen and played black churches in California, Texas, and Louisiana.

Dixon was introduced to gospel music in his youth when his group performed at a theater in south Texas City, where gospel icon James Cleveland was in the audience Cleveland liked Dixon and persuaded him to move to Chicago as a teenager to join his group The Gospel Chimes Around ...


Born to slave parents, Rosa Horn began preaching in Evanston, Illinois, and moved to New York City in 1926 in order to expand her ministry. In 1929 she founded the Pentecostal Faith Church for All Nations, which was also known as the Mount Calvary Pentecostal Faith Church.

Horn began radio broadcasting from her Harlem congregation in 1934 and her program, You, Pray For Me Church of the Air, attracted listeners from as far as the South and the Caribbean. James Baldwin attended her church as a child, and she inspired him to become a preacher. During the Great Depression Horn opened the Gleaners' Aid Home, which provided food for the poor. From the 1940s through the 1970s, Horn focused her charitable works primarily on providing vocational and religious training to poor youth.


Jason Philip Miller

professional basketball player, member of the Harlem Globetrotters, and minister, was born George Meadow Lemon III in Wilmington, North Carolina. Neither his parents' names nor their occupations are known. When he was eleven years old, Lemon went to the local movie house and saw a short reel about Abe Saperstein's famous Harlem Globetrotters basketball team and decided that one day he would be a member. Lemon attended public school in Wilmington, where he excelled at basketball and football. In 1952, while still a high school student, he wrote the Globetrotters to request a tryout and was given one, but he failed to make the team.

That same year Lemon matriculated at Florida A M University but he spent only a few weeks there before he was drafted into the U S Army He spent two years in the service and as luck would have it was stationed ...


David Michel

gospel pianist and arranger, was born Gwendolyn Rosetta Capps in Brookport, Illinois, the daughter of Mase and Florence Capps. Gwendolyn was the fourth of six children. At an early age she manifested some musical disposition by pretending to play piano on her father's razor stand and her mother's sewing machine. Her father died in 1934 and Gwendolyn was raised by her mother. To help the promising Gwendolyn pursue a musical education, a local family donated a piano to her mother. After high school she studied classical music and piano at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and at the Lyon & Healy Academy of Music in Chicago.

In the early 1940s she settled in Chicago, where she was introduced to gospel music while attending a service at a Shiloh Baptist Church. Chicago was then the emerging national center of black gospel music with a galaxy of stars including Thomas ...


De Witt S. Dykes

Vashti McKenzie worked as a model as a teenager, later became a newspaper reporter, hosted radio and television shows, and served as vice president of a television station before entering the Christian ministry. After becoming pastor of two small African Methodist Episcopal (AME) churches, she was appointed pastor of Payne Memorial AME Church in Baltimore, Maryland. At the end of ten years of this pastorate, she was the first woman elected as a Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church denomination.

Vashti Murphy Smith was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Edward Smith and Ida Murphy Smith Peters. Her mother was the daughter of Vashti Turley Murphy, one of the twenty-two cofounders of the national African American sorority, Delta Sigma Theta. Ida Murphy Smith worked from a young age for the Baltimore Afro-American serving as reporter for several decades and managing the marketing and advertising departments Edward ...


Lillian Ashcraft-Eason

Lightfoot Solomon Michaux was born in Newport News, Virginia, the son of John Michaux, a fish peddler and grocer, and May Blanche. Lightfoot, whose ancestry was African, Indian, and French-Jewish, spent his formative years in Newport News among Jewish and white gentile merchants on Jefferson Avenue, the main commercial street where the Michauxs lived in quarters above the family's store. He attended the Twenty-second Street School, quitting after the fourth grade to become a seafood peddler. Impressed with the town's commercial atmosphere, he aspired to be a successful businessman. While engaged in one business venture, he met Mary Eliza Pauline, a mulatto orphan. They married in 1906; the couple had no children of their own but helped raise Michaux's two young sisters.

During World War I Michaux obtained government contracts to furnish food to defense establishments With the profits from his enterprises he moved ...


SaFiya D. Hoskins

singer, actress, and ordained minister, was born Delloreese Patricia Early in Detroit, Michigan, the only child born to the union of Nellie Mitchelle and Richard Thaddeus Early. Her mother, who was of Cherokee descent, worked as cook, and her father was a steelworker. Reese grew up in the church and began singing gospel at age six. As a young teenager, she served as a choir director and would often perform on radio. Subsequently, Reese was discovered by the popular gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. At age thirteen, she began touring with Jackson; she graduated from Cass Technical High School two years later and continued touring with Jackson. While a psychology student at Wayne State University in Detroit, at age eighteen, Reese formed her own gospel group called the Meditation Singers, which would become the first group to popularize gospel in Las Vegas.

Reese discontinued her education at ...


Arthur C. Verge

minister and political activist, was born in Los Angeles, California. The names of his parents are unknown. Primarily educated in Los Angeles–area schools, Russell also studied theology in Copenhagen, Denmark, in the early 1930s at the nation's International College. Russell later remarked that his experiences studying abroad profoundly influenced his thinking about the plight of fellow African Americans in the United States. Foremost among his overseas memories was a visit to Weimar Germany, where the Los Angeles cleric witnessed firsthand the rise of Adolph Hitler's Nationalist Socialist (Nazi) Party and its racist ideology.

In 1936 Russell took over the pastorate of Los Angeles's People's Independent Church. This church, which had emanated in 1915 from the black community s more conservative and powerful First African Methodist Episcopal AME Church became known for its outreach programs for poor and disenfranchised blacks Within a year into Russell s tenure the People ...


Devin C. Manzullo-Thomas

evangelist and church leader, was born Thomas P. Skinner in New York City, the eldest son of Georgia (Robinson) and Alester Jerry Skinner, the latter a Baptist minister.

Growing up in the crime- and poverty-ridden Harlem of the 1940s and 1950s, Skinner rejected the church of his parents, denouncing Christianity as a “white man's religion.” As a teenager, he became a gang leader. One night, while preparing for a gang fight, Skinner heard an uneducated radio preacher and was converted to evangelical Christianity.

As a result of this experience, Skinner became a street preacher in Harlem. On 2 June 1959, he was ordained in the ministry by the United Missionary Baptist Association of Greater New York and Vicinity.

In 1961 Skinner worked with local church and community leaders to organize the Harlem Evangelistic Association A year later Skinner preached an eight month evangelistic crusade at Harlem s ...


Amy Sparks Kolker

journalist and educator, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, the only child of Margaret Smith, who raised her on her own. It is uncertain whether Smith was born into slavery. Though her mother and she were poor and struggled to make ends meet, Smith managed to get an education, and by the age of sixteen she had begun to support her mother and herself by working as a secretary to William James Simmons, the president of the State University of Louisville. Later, after she graduated from the Normal Department at the State University in 1887, she worked as a faculty member.

Through her connection to Simmons, Smith also began working as a journalist. Simmons was an editor of the American Baptist, a newspaper owned by black Baptists, and in 1884 Smith began writing The Children s Column for the publication When Simmons became the ...


was born Martha Jean Jones in Memphis, Tennessee, one of five children of Virgil and Florence (Mabley) Jones. Martha Jean’s first career was nursing, but she also modeled and produced fashion shows. She married jazz trumpeter Luther Steinberg circa 1949 and they had three daughters, Diane, Sandra, and Trienere, but the marriage did not work out and the two eventually separated.

Around 1954 Martha Jean Steinberg entered a contest to be an announcer on the Memphis radio station WDIA Although owned by whites the station s format was aimed at the black community She didn t win the contest but the program director liked her voice and offered her a part time shift There are several versions of how she acquired her nickname The Queen Reporter Susan Whitall says it was t hanks to her 6 foot stature and regal demeanor p 39 But Louis Cantor a former WDIA ...


Sholomo B. Levy

gospel singer and songwriter, was born Clara Mae Ward in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the last of three children of George Ward, a factory worker, and Gertrude Mae Walla Azalee Murphy Ward, a domestic worker. Her parents were farmers who left Anderson, South Carolina, in 1920 in search of the better job opportunities that were available to black people in the North. All of her family sang in the choir at Ebenezer Baptist Church, although at home on one occasion mischievous relatives reportedly encouraged young Clara to belt out the popular Thomas A. Dorsey tune “Tight Like That,” which was written when the legendary gospel composer was still a bluesman and long before the enthusiastic Clara was capable of understanding its meaning Her musical tastes would later become fixed on old Negro spirituals and she became a pioneer in creating modern gospel but her desire to sing ...


David Michel

gospel singer and group leader, was born Gertrude Willa Azalee Murphy near Anderson, South Carolina, the eleventh of twelve children born to David and Hannah Murphy, both being farmers and Baptists. Gertrude completed eighth grade and, like millions of African Americans, moved north. In 1920 she settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and married George Ward, with whom she had two daughters, Willa(rene) and Clara Mae, born in 1922 and 1924 respectively. In Philadelphia, Gertrude did domestic work while her husband joined an iron company, where he remained for forty-two years. The Ward family soon joined Ebenezer Baptist Church at Tenth Street and Girard Avenue and would remain active there for years. Both Ward and her husband joined the senior choir. In 1931 Ward claimed to hear the voice of God telling her, “Go sing my Gospel.”

Ward aggressively pursued a singing ministry She familiarized herself with gospel ...


Brian Hallstoos

gospel singer, was born in Miami, Florida, the tenth of eleven children of Robert and Ethel Williams. Her West Indian father, who worked as a butcher and taught music on the weekends, died when she was nine, and a few years later her mother had both legs amputated due to diabetes. To help support her family, Williams left school after the ninth grade to work all day at various low-level jobs. On Sundays she attended two Pentecostal churches, where she developed her voice and musicianship. Recognized for her exceptional talent from early on, she first soloed at the age of three and later performed sacred music on street corners and in revivals.

In 1943 Williams started performing in churches around Florida with a gospel group the Melrose Singers Several years passed before she started traveling nationally which was sparked by an impromptu solo At the request of ...