Songs of protest have been inspiring activists for millennia, and continue to be created, shared, and reworked across musical genres. From the prophet Habakkuk as proto-protest singer, through a broad spectrum of twentieth and twenty-first century artists and diverse faith traditions, Theology and Protest Music gathers compelling contributions that examine Brazilian eschatology, Black liberation and womanism, esoteric Islam in Five Percenter rap, heavy metal as anti-theology, Howard Thurman’s relevance to jazz, Cuban Santería priest Pedrito Martinez’ sacred Batá drumming, as well as theological reflections on Jay-Z, Funkadelic, Marvin Gaye, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and the social justice chorale movement. Those interested in theology and popular culture, as well as scholars of music, social justice, racial identity, LGBTQ+ studies, and gender studies will find new aspects of the broad spectrum of protest music and its diverse spiritual connections. Theology and Protest Music also features invited contributions by pioneering choral activist Catherine Roma and world-renowned performer, composer, and educator Dr. Ysaye Maria Barnwell.
Heidi M. Altman is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Georgia Southern University.
Jonathan H. Harwell is associate director for collection and resource services at the Ina Dillard Russell Library at Georgia College and State University.
Heidi M. Altman and Jonathan H. Harwell
1.How Long? Habakkuk the Prophet as Proto-Protest Singer
Andrew Zack Lewis
2.Already and Not Yet: Eschatology in Brazilian Protest Songs (1960s-1990s)
Joêzer de Souza Mendonça and Allan Macedo de Novaes
3.From “We Shall Overcome” to “We Gon’ Be Alright:” How Social Movement Styles Influence Black Liberation Protest Music
Shaonta’ E. Allen
4.A Continuing Call from the Voice in the Wilderness: Jay-Z’s “Spiritual”
Rev. Santarvis Brown and Brent Swanson
5.From Ghetto to Gods, from Protest to Priest: The (Pro)creative Transformation of Self in Five Percenter Rap and Its Analogies to Sapiental Traditions in Islamic Theology
Martin Abdel Matin Gansinger
6.Wholeness and Hoeness: The Protest for Black Women’s Sexual Liberation
7.“To Rise Beyond Jesus”: Heavy Metal as Anti-Theological Protest
Jackson T. Reinhardt
8.Howard Thurman and the Meaning of Jazz
Daryl Russell Grigsby
9.Conjuring in the Concert Hall: Pedrito Martinez’s Batá Drumming in Wynton Marsalis’ Ochas Concert
Hannah Marie Junco
10.Free Your Mind: Funkadelic and the Nitty-Gritty Hermeneutic
Kyle E. Brooks
11.“Mother, Mother…”: Contemplating Wounds with Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, Fifty Years Later
12.Singing the Stories of Our Lives: Protest and Praise
Catherine Roma with Ysaye Maria Barnwell
These passionate essays show us that music can do powerful theological work, and remind us how religious concerns have shaped the musical imagination of dissidents and activists across time and space. Ranging from the prophets Habbakuk and Howard Thurman to Wynton Marsalis and Megan Thee Stallion, the best of these essays combine erudite theological meditations with fine-grained analyses of particular song forms, genres and social movements. Overall, this book provides an ear-opening guide to the fractures and altercations that characterize our deeply fraught historical moment.