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The Significance of the Black Church Throughout America's History

Daniel Hautzinger
The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song. Image: McGee Media
Image: McGee Media

The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song airs Tuesday February 16 and Wednesday, February 17 at 9:00 pm, and will be available to stream. Find out more about Chicago's Black churches at

Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s newest special The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song explores the vibrant history of the Black church in America and its importance in everything from civil rights to music to spiritual formation to daily life. The 400-year-old story could not be told, of course, without mentioning the significance of Chicago's churches, from the city's oldest Black congregation at Quinn Chapel A.M.E. through Baptist churches integral in the development of gospel music to more contemporary institutions with bold architecture or prominent missions.

On February 10, WTTW hosted a virtual conversation about the Black church moderated by Sylvia Ewing, featuring some illustrious experts: Rev. Dr. Waltrina Middleton, the executive director of the Community Renewal Society; Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, the senior pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Washington Heights; Rev. Dr. Stephen G. Ray, Jr., the president of Hyde Park's Chicago Theological Seminary; and Taurean Webb, the director of the Center for the Church and the Black Experience at Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston. Rev. Dr. Moss and Rev. Dr. Ray are both featured in The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song.

"We need to realize how intertwined the Black church is with the birth of other institutions," says Rev. Dr. Moss in the discussion. "It’s like a human being: it has incredible beauty, brokenness, blessedness, all of that mixed together, and we have to hold it in our arms and recognize the beauty even in the cracks of it.”

You can watch their conversation and enjoy their insights below: