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Cover for the book Nothing but Love in God's Water

Nothing but Love in God's Water

Volume I: Black Sacred Music from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement Robert Darden
  • Copyright: 2014
  • Dimensions: 7 x 10
  • Page Count: 224 pages
  • Illustrations: 7 b&w illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-05084-3

Hardcover Edition: $34.95
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Nothing but Love in God’s Water, volume 1, fills a significant niche in the already-voluminous library of the civil rights movement. While previous Pulitzer Prize–winning books have definitively covered the movement’s leaders, politics, strategies, philosophy, and impact, the literature related to the influence—actually, the importance—of the music to the movement has barely been addressed in meaningful, systematic fashion. Nothing but Love in God's Water does that and more.”
“The African American spiritual tradition long ago overflowed its cultural banks to become a wellspring for quintessentially American sacred and secular music. In Nothing but Love in God’s Water, Robert Darden meticulously and mellifluously charts that flow from the origins of the spiritual as a balm against the pain of slavery to adaptation and repurposing as a means of empowering, uniting, and persevering in the struggle for civil rights. Darden offers an essential guide to the evolution of a tradition, the myriad springs, eddies, and crosscurrents that over centuries fed into the enduring river that is the legacy of African American sacred song.”
“This book is absolutely brilliant! Part social history, part investigative reporting, and a lot of sound cultural analysis with a touch of theological reflection, this magnum opus illuminates the importance of black sacred music within the civil rights movement. Nothing but Love in God’s Water reveals black sacred music as a liberating expression, a tool for liberation, and the most important chronicle of the liberation experience. Robert Darden’s tome is accurate, well written, captivating, and full of insightful interpretations of the power of music within the African American experience.”
“As Americans take to the streets in protest over the loss of African American lives in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York, and elsewhere, the power of the singing army cannot be overestimated. Although decades have passed since the Civil Rights movement of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. era, protesters are not turning to today’s popular song canon to set their marching cadence. They are still singing the old standards, such as ‘I Shall Not Be Moved,’ and ‘We Shall Overcome.’ Like previous generations, they are harnessing the power of black sacred song to lift the spirit of the oppressed and turn the heart of the oppressor. Darden’s book provides an eminently readable and consistently fascinating history of how this came to be.”
“In this first volume of a projected two, Darden . . . gets immediately to the heart of his subject: music validates the African rites of passage and while continuing that role in African American history provides the commentary and response to all subsequent aspects of black life and society. Alert to the church as the haven for more than worship, the author illustrates this manifested from the plantations to the Fisk Jubilee Singers to the gospel music of Thomas Dorsey and Mahalia Jackson. Seeing the cultural fabric as a unit, Darden looks at the protests and responses within blues and jazz as well as in the sacred. The author is knowledgeable about the literature on the subject and has produced a work that will be useful to a broad audience. Scholarly readers will find the expansive bibliography and 26 pages of endnotes of particular value.”
“The first volume of Robert Darden’s timely and readable book, Nothing but Love in God’s Water, offers a well researched, notated and indexed lens through which to focus an evaluation of protest music based on African-American sacred song.”
“African-American music and its revolutionary potential, whether in the form of slave spirituals or the protest songs of the Civil Rights Movement, is relatively well-trodden ground amongst scholars. Where Robert Darden diverts from, and adds to this historiography, is in highlighting the reach and impact of black musical forms within sections of white American society. . . . Darden presents a compelling study of the impact of African-American music, making excellent use of both the rich historiography, and the various black musical genres.”

The first of two volumes chronicling the history and role of music in the African American experience, Nothing but Love in God’s Water explores how songs and singers helped African Americans challenge and overcome slavery, subjugation, and suppression. From the spirituals of southern fields and the ringing chords of black gospel to the protest songs that changed the landscape of labor and the cadences sung before dogs and water cannons in Birmingham, sacred song has stood center stage in the African American drama. Myriad interviews, one-of-a-kind sources, and rare or lost recordings are used to examine this enormously persuasive facet of the movement. Nothing but Love in God’s Water explains the historical significance of song and helps us understand how music enabled the civil rights movement to challenge the most powerful nation on the planet.

Robert Darden is Professor of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media at Baylor University. He is a former gospel music editor for Billboard magazine.




Chapter 1: The Spiritual: Beginnings and Context

Chapter 2: The Spirituals: Protest Songs

Interlude: The Protest Spirituals: From the Post Civil War Era Through the Great


Chapter 3: The Spirituals: “There is Power in the Union!”

Chapter 4: The Beginnings of the Modern Civil Rights Movement, the Influence of

Radio, and the Rise of Gospel Music

Chapter 5: Montgomery: Black Sacred Song in the Modern Civil Rights Movement

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