Denison Journal of Religion


“Gospel of Grace: Understanding ‘Amazing Grace’ with Musical and Theological Analysis” by Ellie Hasan, ’18. Hasan dispels the myth that the classic American hymnal ‘Amazing Grace’ was originally a slave spiritual, utilizing historical scholarship to attribute its authorship to an eighteenth century white slave trader. That the piece found its home in the black gospel canon is a testament to the transformational, liberating nature of gospel music. Hasan touches upon the theological aspects of gospel music that made ‘Amazing Grace’ a natural addition to the gospel canon, taking care to center her scholarship in the musical qualities of gospel practices and slave spirituals. Additionally, in tracing the evolution of gospel music from its slave spiritual roots, Hasan shows why the black community reimagined and appropriated certain practices and the lyrical flairs for which it is known so widely today. She concludes that the black community claimed white songs such as ‘Amazing Grace’ without bending to white culture, and so were able to use this process and its thoroughly African-American results as a tool for liberation.


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