"I had hope, faith, courage, aspiration, and most of all determination to accomplish something in life... I resolved to make a mark for myself."
Thomas Dorsey, known as the “father of gospel music” is best known for “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” though he composed more than 400 songs. The son of a Baptist preacher and a church organist, he found early success after leaving Atlanta for Chicago. At 21, he suffered a nervous breakdown which left him unable to write, practice, or play. After convalescing back in Atlanta, he ignored his mother’s pleas to return to his faith roots and returned to Chicago and started playing the blues.
He suffered a second breakdown and was again unable to play. After recovering this time, he committed himself to “do the Lord’s work” but his blend of spiritual lyrics with worldly blues was rejected by churches. In 1932, Dorsey lost his wife and son in childbirth. It was then, overcome by grief, that he penned “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” which he declared, “came direct from God.” A few years later, he teamed up with Mahalia Jackson who later said, “Gospel songs are the songs of hope. When you sing gospel, you have a feeling there is a cure for what's wrong.”
Dorsey’s life and hope is a testimony that no matter the challenges we face, they are not new, and God had promised to see us through. His gospel music, much like a great gospel message, has the power to uplift us and focus our minds and hearts on God’s faithfulness.
Then, we can acknowledge our trials, and still give God the glory as we are admonished in Colossians 3:15-17, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
As we celebrate Black History Month, may we learn the valuable lessons from our past as we seek God’s guidance for the future and are reminded that in spite of our struggles, God is always present, and our hope is in Him.