PBS ‘Gospel’: Vanderbilt Divinity School hosts exclusive screening, conversation

Vanderbilt Divinity School invites the community to a viewing of Gospel, a new PBS docuseries on the rich history of Black religious music and preaching, and a conversation with two of the program’s commentators on Feb. 13. The event, which begins at 6 p.m. in Sarratt Cinema, features Yolanda Pierce and Michael Eric Dyson, both of whom are in the docuseries.

Pierce, dean of the Divinity School and Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Religion and Literature, was also one of Gospel’s advisers. She and Dyson will discuss production of the four-hour series, the role of preaching and gospel music in contemporary society, and how those art forms are changing. Exclusive clips from Gospel will be shown.

The screening and conversation are free and open to the public, but seating is limited; advance registration is required. Register here. Since the event is nearing full capacity, those who have not registered yet are encouraged to join the program virtually. Click here for the livestream.

“I am excited for the premiere of Gospel, with its intricate weaving of heartfelt interviews and soulful musical performances that convey so much about African American culture and experience, and its evolving over time,” Pierce said.

She is a leading voice on the role of religion in public life, with scholarly interests that include literature and religion, African American religions and womanist theology. Pierce’s books include In My Grandmother’s House: Black Women, Faith, and the Stories We Inherit and Hell Without Fires: Slavery, Christianity, and the Antebellum Spiritual Narrative. She is a contributing writer for Christian Century and has authored pieces for Time and Theology Today, among other publications.

As an influential commentator and prolific author, Dyson focuses on race, religion and contemporary culture. His many books include Entertaining Race: Performing Blackness in America, Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America, JAY-Z: Made in America, and Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America.

Dyson has been recognized for his literary achievements with the Langston Hughes Medal, the American Book Award and two NAACP Image Awards. At Vanderbilt, Dyson is University Distinguished Scholar of African American and Diaspora Studies and University Distinguished Scholar of Ethics and Society while holding the Centennial Chair.

Gospel is a critically important production for bringing increased understanding and awareness of the uniquely African American experience through the lens of music and religion, and the impact of class, gender, innovation and technology on the development of gospel,” Dyson said. “I am honored to be among the contributors.”

The series features interviews with prominent individuals such as Dionne Warwick, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, the Rev. Otis Moss III and many others. Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the executive producer, host and writer for Gospel, which will premiere Feb. 12 and 13, with a special companion concert premiering on Feb. 9.

“From the Great Migration to today, the history of Black gospel music and preaching is one of constant movement, and it’s long been a dream of mine to bring it to public television,” Gates said. “We’re blessed to have such outstanding partners in delivering this series and concert at a time in our nation when the need for Gospel’s transcendent, healing powers is so great.”

Viewers in Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky can watch the programs on Nashville Public Television. Also speaking at the Vanderbilt event will be Becky Magura, president and CEO of WNPT, and Vanderbilt University Chancellor Daniel Diermeier. 

The Fisk University Choir Ensemble will provide a special musical performance, and there will be a reception after the event.