Harlem Renaissance Public Radio Special

During the Harlem Renaissance, music, religion, and spirituality were connected—not only in the church, but also in the jazz club. The public radio special “The Harlem Renaissance: Music, Religion, and the Politics of Race” combines music, archival audio, and guest commentary to explore this fascinating period in African-American history.

Listen to this episode at iTunes University or here:

The programs aired on WNYC, WBEZ, and other public radio stations nationwide throughout February 2012. The two-hour special is part of IRCPL’s radio series, Rethinking Religion, produced in connection with Magnetic Arts and the Luce Group.

“The Harlem Renaissance: Music, Religion, and the Politics of Race” is a winner of the 2013 Wilber Award, from the Religion Communicators Council for excellence in religion news coverage.


Hosted by Norris J. Chumley (Emmy Award winner, Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer), the first hour explores the influence of the Great Migration on Harlem, what it meant to be a “New Negro” in the 1920s, the emergence of new artistic and religious forms in Harlem, and the spiritual connections between the blues and gospel music.  In hour two, guests discuss the emergence of the storefront church, the Harlem rent party, musicians’ roots in the church, and improvisation in music and the church service.

Guests include scholars Josef Sorett, Farah Griffin, Obery M. Hendricks Jr, Dan Morgenstern; Reverend Calvin O. Butts III of Abyssinian Baptist Church; Bishop Charles E. Wright of Greater Refuge Temple; artist and writer Carl Hancock Rux; musicians Courtney Bryan, Jose James, Sarah McLawler; and editor Malaika Adero. The episodes feature the voices of Langston Hughes, Sterling Brown, Zora Neale Hurston, plus music by Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Chick Webb, Ella Fitzgerald, and Mahalia Jackson, and more.

This radio special was developed in connection with IRCPL’s media project Religions of Harlem, organized by Josef Sorett and Obery M. Hendricks Jr.

Executive producer and host is Norris J. Chumley; producer is Jim Luce; writer is Sally Placksin (American Women in JazzWhat’s the Word?); consulting editor is Josef Sorett; technical director is Duke Markos (JazzSet with DeeDee BridgewaterMarian McPartland’s Piano Jazz); associate producer is Genevieve Luce; and managing editor is Emily Brennan.

“The Harlem Renaissance: Music, Religion, and the Politics of Race” aired on the following select public radio stations: WNYC (New York City); WBEZ (Chicago); member stations of the African-American Public Radio ConsortiumCapital Public RadioWCPN (Cleveland); WPFW (Washington, DC); KCSM (San Mateo); KCEP (Las Vegas); WDUQ (Wheeling, Pittsburg, Benwood); KLRE (Little Rock, AR); WJAB (Huntsville, AL); WCSU (Wilberforce, OH); KSUN (Parachute, CO); KGRM (Grambling, LA); KSTK (Wrangell, AK); WFSK (Nashville); WNIJ (DeKalb, IL); WRVS (Elizabeth City, NC); WVAS (Montgomery, AL); WSNC (Winston-Salem, NC); WLRH (Huntsville, AL); WSKG (Binghamton, NY); WNJT (Trenton); WNJP (Sussex); WNJY (Netcong); WNJO (Toms River/Seaside Park).

Category: Media Rethinking Religion Episodes