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Fall Update

At SPS this fall, all courses, other than pre-established online courses, will be offered face-to-face in our New York City classrooms. Some of these face-to-face courses will be offered in the HyFlex format to ensure that all of our students can make progress toward their degree requirements, if faced with delays due to student visas or vaccination effectiveness wait times.
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Religion and the History of Black Music with Professor Josef Sorett

Join Josef Sorett, Professor of Religion and African American and African Diaspora Studies at Columbia University, for this six-part series run in coordination with two Columbia Summer Session courses – Gospel Music in Modern America and Religion and the History of Hip Hop.

These events bring together scholars, musicians, media workers, and fans for a discussion of the evolving role of religion in shaping the history of Black music. Each Wednesday will be organized around a selection of songs that guests will discuss as a means for thinking about the play between religion and music during a specific moment in time.


Part I focuses around the play between sacred and secular in gospel music, from the advent of modern gospel during the Great Migration era, through the rise of Contemporary Gospel Music, up through the early years of the 21st century. 

Opening Conversation on Religion and Black Music with Columbia Undergrads

Wednesday, May 26, 6:00p.m.–7:00 p.m. ET

Professor Sorett introduces the series and engages three Columbia undergraduates, who also co-host a campus radio show. This conversation surveys the full span of the religion and the history of Black music, from the early years of Gospel music through Hip Hop music during the most recent decade.

Guest Speakers:

  • Malachi Jones, '22CC 
  • Colby King, '22CC 
  • Briana Wood, '22CC 

Gospel Blues to Modern Gospel (1930s–1970s)

Wednesday, June 9, 6:00p.m.–7:00 p.m. ET

Featuring Juilliard Professor and Ethnomusicologist Fredara Hadley, this conversation digs deeper into the early history of Gospel music, focusing on the three decades that followed the emergence of the genre in the 1930s. 

Guest Speaker:

Fredara M. Hadley, Ph.D.
Professor of Ethnomusicology
The Juilliard School

Trajectories in Contemporary Gospel (1980s–present)

Wednesday, June 23, 6:00p.m.–7:00 p.m. ET

Professor Sorett focuses in on the years that follow the period typically considered to be the Gospel genre’s “golden age.” Joined by UVA Professor Claudrena Harold, historian and author of When Sunday Comes: Gospel Music in the Soul and Hip Hop Era, they discuss developments in Gospel music from the 1970s to the present.

Guest Speaker:

Claudrena Harold, Ph.D. 
Professor of African American and African Studies and History
Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia 

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Join the event here


Part II follows the history of Hip Hop music from the 1970s to the present, examining the range of religious ideas and practices that have animated the performance, production, reception, and consumption of rap music.


Wednesday, July 7, 6:00p.m.–7:00 p.m. ET 

The first event in Part II kicks off a discussion of the various ways that religion appeared in Hip Hop music as it was first emerging, as well as the response by religious leaders to the sounds of a new genre.

Guest Speaker:

Marcyliena Morgan, Ph.D.
Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences, Professor of African and African American Studies, and Executive Director of the HipHop Archive and Research Institute, Harvard University

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Wednesday, July 21, 6:00p.m.–7:00 p.m. ET

Joined by public intellectual and Teachers College Professor Christopher Emdin, this conversation follows shifts in the religious dimensions of rap music during the 1990s and 2000s.

Guest Speaker:

Christopher Emdin, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Science and Education
Teachers College, Columbia University

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Wednesday, August 4, 6:00p.m.–7:00 p.m. ET 

Wrapping up the series, the final conversation features a discussion of place of religion and spirituality in Hip Hop music over the last decade.