Selling to the Souls of Black Folk: Atlanta, the Phonograph, Rev. J.M. Gates, and the Transformation of American Religion and Culture, 1910-1945

Team Members/Contributors

Lerone A. Martin Emory University Contact Me

About this dissertation fellowship

Selling to the Souls of Black Folk is a historical analysis of twentieth century American mass media religion, race, and commodification. I use the career and life of Atlanta pastor Rev. James M. Gates as a focal point to chronicle how African American preachers used the phonograph to record and sell their sermons and make a significant contribution to twentieth century American mass media religion. American religious scholarship has credited evangelicals and their utilization of the radio as the primary catalyst of twentieth century American mass media religion. However, my project fills a lacuna in such scholarship by displaying how the production and consumption of phonograph sermons also played a noteworthy role in American mass media religion. Moreover, I detail how this particular form of mass mediation and commodification of religion helped to transform American religious practices. Selling to the Souls of Black Folk, then, tells a local story with national significance. It is a story that details how the experience of Atlanta’s black faith communities and the phonograph mirrored and contributed to the transformation of twentieth century American protestant religion and culture.

Image Title Year Type Contributor(s) Other Info
  "Selling to the Souls of Black Folk: Atlanta, Reverend J. M. Gates, the Phonograph, and the Transformation of African American Protestantism and Culture, 1910-1945" 2011 Dissertation Lerone A. Martin
  Preaching on Wax: The Phonograph and the Shaping of Modern African American Religion (Religion, Race, and Ethnicity) 2014 Dissertation Book Lerone A. Martin