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The power and influence of African American Gospel

More than simple words, this music inspires action around the world

William Covington | 6/26/2014, midnight
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According to Metaxas, the passion and vision he experienced there influenced Bonhoeffer’s own writing and preaching. The German immigrant also had an extensive collection of Black Gospel music, which would remain a lifelong inspiration for him.

Upon completing his fellowship in New York, Bonhoeffer returned to Germany, which at the time was in the midst of transitioning to a dictatorship run by government officials that had embraced a political ideology based solely on racism. Immediately after Hitler was elected Chancellor on Jan. 30, 1933, Bonhoeffer did a radio broadcast that included the following quote: “Should the leader allow himself to succumb to the wishes of those he leads, who will always seek to turn him into an idol, then the image of the leader will become the image of the misleader. This is the leader who makes an idol of himself and of his office, and who thus mocks God.”

The German government cut off the broadcast midway and Bonhoeffer became a marked man. Eventually arrested by the German military, Bonhoeffer was imprisoned and executed by the Nazis. He was charged with attempting to overthrow Adolf Hitler.

Researchers noted that Bonhoeffer would fall back on singing Black Gospel to help himself in times of trouble. He also said the music inspired and gave him strength to try to change the world.

The influence of Black Gospel Music also reached the rice paddies of Vietnam long before the United States military sent American troops to fight a war to prevent the spread of communism throughout Indochina.

Vietnam’s leader, Ho Chi Minh, would eventually lead the country of North Vietnam to winning a war against the western powers of the free world.

While employed as a seaman on a French steamer, a young Ho Chi Minh would visit ports in Asia, Africa, and New York. Historians often refer to this time period as his years of exploration. He decided to spend time in New York and found a job as a laborer working with other immigrants and African Americans. It was there that he noticed Asians were treated better than African Americans. Having a curious nature and understanding a total of five languages (French, English, Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese), Minh was able to interact with Harlem’s African American community. He spent time going to meetings put on by Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Trust (the shipping company) in Harlem as well as various Black churches Garvey visited as a keynote speaker.

It was at one of these gatherings that he was introduced to African American Gospel music. Voung Nguyen Anh, a former senior education officer at the Ho Chi Minh Museum, believes Gospel music and the Black struggle was one of many life experiences that inspired the revolutionary leader with his war with the French and later with the United States. His father, a Confucian scholar, taught Ho Chi Minh to follow the religion’s precepts and taught him how to be rebel against injustice. Anh also believes Minh’s understanding of Confucius created empathy towards African Americans and their Gospel music.