Plans Announced for National Museum of Gospel Music

Organizers have announced plans for a first-of-its-kind gospel music museum. The National Museum of Gospel Music will be built on the site of the Pilgrim Baptist Church in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, IL. Thomas A. Dorsey, heralded as the “Father of Gospel Music”, served as the music director for Pilgrim Baptist Church in 1932. Dorsey was a blues pianist and was the first to fuse Christian content with influences from jazz and blues. Pilgrim was an equally influential church, attracting singers such as Aretha Franklin, Mahalia Jackson, and James Cleveland throughout the church’s history.

The church burned down in 2006, leaving only the exterior walls.

Architect Dirk Lohan adapted a design for the project that would salvage the existing church walls. It calls for a 45,000-square-feet (4180-square-meters) facility with a glass-encased roof addition. The plans also call for exhibitions, an auditorium, and listening library.

Stellar Awards founder Don Jackson is leading the project, which is expected to cost about $32 million. He kicked off the project with a personal donation of $1 million to the project that he said will be the first gospel museum in the U.S.

“We know it will bring international tourists,” said Don Jackson, former chairman of the DuSable Museum of African American History. “For Chicago to only have the DuSable Museum, in terms of an African-American institution, it is really under served.”

“He (Jackson) understands the industry and the importance of the history,” said Marabeth Gentry, president of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses, founded by Dorsey. “His desire to do this for gospel music speaks volumes.”

Thomas Dorsey III, grandson of Thomas A Dorsey and Director of the Thomas Dorsey Project echoed his sentiments.

“On behalf of the entire Dorsey family, we are encouraged by the plans to build a museum in Chicago to preserve and perpetuate Gospel Music as the true American art form it is. We hope the effort fully appreciates Thomas A. Dorsey’s role as the catalyst of a musical movement that’s become a recognized part of Christian worship.”

Jackson indicated he plans to open the museum in September 2020 during Gospel Music Heritage Month.


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