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Terri Brinegar

Terri Brinegar is a PhD student in ethnomusicology at University of Florida. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Classical voice from University of Central Florida, and a Bachelor of Music degree in Classical voice from North Texas State University. Terri’s areas of interest include African American music, specifically related to singing practices, spanning from the Negro Spiritual to contemporary R&B.

“Whoopin’, Singin’, and Shoutin’: The Crossroads of the African American Sermonette with Class and Racial Ideologies in the 1920s”
As middle-class African Americans sought to establish “modern” cultural, artistic, and intellectual ways of expression in the interwar period, the introduction of religious race records in the 1920s created conflicts as both antagonizing and aggrandizing factors for raced and classed bodies. The “folk” vocalizations of Black preachers and their congregations, known as “sermonettes,” were favored by working-class Blacks and embedded in the tradition of slavery, which created areas of contention the emerging middle-class sought to overcome. These religious race recordings became public venues for a new form of modernity in which working class Blacks were able to contest the ideals of middle-class values and aesthetics. As religious race recordings expanded into the public arena as a continuation of oral traditions, they challenged notions of racial uplift, in which education and written discourses were one of the preferred expressions of modernity. Analysis of vocal traits in recordings by Reverends J. M. Gates and Sutton Griggs provide insights into the complex layering of class and racial conflicts occurring in this era, giving a literal voice to traditional folkways while simultaneously embodying modernist ideologies.

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