July 3, 2020
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By Taylor Helmes, Assistant News Editor

The impact and influence of musical genres brought to Los Angeles as part of the post-World War II Second Great Migration of African American’s is the focus of a reception Thursday, Feb. 20 celebrating an ongoing exhibit, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken: the Sacred Music of the African Diaspora.”

The reception will be held from 4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. in the Library of Cultural Arts Center. 

CSUDH’s Gerth Archives and Special Collections created the exhibit, which opened Feb. 3 and will be on display until Aug. 7.  It draws from the university’s extensive Georgia & Nolan Payton Archive of Sacred Music, which includes music, books and other documents, audio & visual materials, and oral history.  The archive is a repository of materials relating to African American Diaspora sacred music, including church music and religious concert music created and/or performed by Southern California’s multi-cultural community, specifically Los Angeles-based musicians, choirs, composers and teachers. 

The exhibit sheds light on the vibrant music that the Second Great Migration of African Americans brought to Los Angeles. Between 1940 and 1970, an estimated 4.5 million African Americans fled onerous Jim Crow laws in the American South in favor of cities such as Los Angeles. Not only did they bring their bodies, they also brought their souls in the gospel, spirituals, blues, jazz and other musical genres from where they came.

The exhibit details the impact that music had on Los Angeles’ culture but also shows the enduring influence that music had on modern gospel, pop, jazz, hip-hop and other genres.

“African American sacred music is unique in that it has several styles that originated directly from the enslavement of African peoples in the United States,” said Beth McDonald, curator of the exhibit and music archivist with the Gerth Archives and Special Collections. “As the population and the demand for gospel music in California grew, the music took on new forms.”

In addition to the exhibit, Thursdays’ reception will honor Dr. Albert McNeil’s 100th birthday. McNeil founded the Jubilee Singers, one of the foremost African American spiritual choirs in the country. Sallyanne Payton, a donor to the archives and child of Georgia and Nolan Payton, who the Georgia and Nolan Payton Sacred Music Archives are named for, will also be honored, along with Hansonia Caldwell, a CSUDH professor emeritus of music and the leading donor of the collections in the archive.  

For the full version of this story, and the other Black History Month events the rest of the month, see “Black History Month’’ on our website at www.csudhbulletin.com.

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