FEATURE Image: Signage of Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, Chicago. The church is known as “the birthplace of Gospel music” since Thomas A. Dorsey (1899-1993) started his first modern gospel choir here in 1931.
Author’s photograph, 10/2016 6.06 mb
Built as one of Chicago’s early Reform Judaism synagogue in 1898, the Classical Revival style golden brick and stone building is the last one designed by Dankmar Adler (1844-1900). The building with its form distinctive to other Adler buildings as well as its fine acoustics, was purchased by Ebenezer Church in 1921.
In the heart of the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago’s Southside, Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church was formed in 1902. During the Great Migration, African-Americans made Ebenezer their church home in the early 1920’s.
Ebenezer developed a reputation as a center for gospel music. Under the direction of Theodore R. Frye, Roberta Martin and, the “Father of Gospel Music,” Thomas A. Dorsey (1899-1993), the church’s groundbreaking gospel choir introduced a blend of Christian praise and blues at Ebenezer that established the careers of the “Mother of Gospel,” Sallie Martin (1895-1988), Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972) and Dinah Washington (1924-1963) who was inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
I’ll Tell It Wherever I Go – Sallie Martin. Sallie Martin helped popularize the songs of Thomas A. Dorsey. Martin also worked with Cora Martin-Moore (1927-2005), Dinah Washington and Brother Joe May (1912-1972), the “Thunderbolt of the Midwest,” when Sallie Martin formed the Sallie Martin Singers. Sallie Martin was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1991.
Sanctuary. During the 30-year pastorate of Rev. Frank K. Sims, distinguished guests of the church included Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), Ralph Metcalfe (1910-1978), Adam Clayton Powell (1908-1972) and Mahalia Jackson.
“A voice like this comes only once in a millennium,” so said Dr. King about Mahalia Jackson. During the Chicago Freedom Movement in 1966, Mahalia Jackson, who lived in Chicago, joined her friend Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., when he was visited a church to preach a sermon about justice and equality. Like Dr. King, Mahalia Jackson was a devout Christian and Civil Rights activist. , At the August 28, 1963 March on Washington she sang “How I Got Over” and was on the Lincoln Memorial platform behind King while he was pronouncing his “I Have a Dream” speech.
In 1966 a banquet honoring Dr. Frank Kentworth Sims on the 7th anniversary of his pastorate of Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church featured Nobel Peace Prize recipient the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as the guest speaker and Mahalia Jackson as guest vocalist.
Though there were literally as many church choirs as there were churches, Dinah Washington (then Ruth Jones) made a name for herself as a teenage gospel singer. In 1940 Ruth gave a recital that included “Precious Lord Take My Hand,” one of Thomas A. Dorsey’s most popular songs.
AIA Guide to Chicago, 2nd Edition, Harcourt, Inc., Orlando, 2004, p. 417.
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Architecture - Modern, Chicago, Houses of Worship, Music - Gospel, My Photography Architecture Design, Style - Georgian Revival and tagged Architect - Dankmar Adler (1844-1900), Architecture/Design, Churches, History (Event) - Chicago Freedom Movement 1966, History (U.S. Civil Rights leader) - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., House of Worship (Chicago) - Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church (1899), Municipality - Chicago IL, Music (Gospel Singer) - Brother Joe May (1912-1972), Music (Gospel Singer) - Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972), Music (Gospel Singer) - Sallie Martin (1895-1988), Music (Jazz Gospel Singer) - Dinah Washington (1924-1963), Music Composer - Thomas A. Dorsey (1899-1993), My Photography - Architecture & Design, Religion on . April 21, 2023