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Charles A. Tindley - father of American Gospel Music

Charles A. Tindley

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Charles A. Tindley
born to a slave father and free mother near Berlin, Maryland
Worcester County

Composer of many Christian Hymns including "We Shall Overcome" which became the anthem for Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's  Known as the Father of Gospel Music.

Charles A. Tindley was born in the Town of Berlin, in Worcester County on Maryland's Lower Eastern Shore on July 7, 1851.  He was born on the Joseph Brindell farm where his father was a slave and his mother was free born.  His mother died when he was young and he was raised by his sister until he was old enough to be hired out for work.  He worked along side slaves, though he was free and his free status was recognized.

He had no formal elementary education and taught himself to read and write.  Eventually he worked as a janitor to put himself through night school while simultaneously earning a Divinity Degree via a correspondence course.  In 1902 he became a pastor at the very church where he formerly served as a janitor.  It had 130 members when he took it over.  The congregation grew to about 10,000 members under Charles and included both Blacks and Whites.

Charles was a powerful preacher, a superior pastor (known as "the people's pastor") and a pioneering song writer.  His soulful lyrics, rooted in the depth of feeling that rises from an oppressed people, chanted love - not hate, patience and tolerance - not revenge or retaliation.  One of his hymns, "I Shall Overcome" was modified and became the now famous "We Shall Overcome" which served as the anthem for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's and is widely sung in Christian Churches all over the world.. 

Charles Tindley's hymns still appear in hymnals and songbooks used by all  Christian Denominations.  Technically, he was a musical illiterate. Evidently, he dictated the tunes and lyrics to a transcriber.  He noted for writing over 30 hymns and is often referred to as the "Father of Gospel Music."

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