“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness,” said Maya Angelou. In the same way that music can be one’s haven, music can also serve as a charge or rally cry for strength and justice in other contexts. Dr. William Wiggins
understands this kind of power in music, especially religious music, and considers an exploration of music in the African American Church basic to his teaching.
Wiggins is professor of African American Studies and Folklore at Indiana University
in Bloomington, where he specializes in Afro-American Folklore, Sports History, and the Black Church.
Louisville Seminary will provide two opportunities for further exploration at upcoming events. The Stillman College Choir
of Tuscaloosa, Ala., will present a concert of sacred music on Sunday evening, February 9, at 7 p.m., and Dr. Wiggins will be the guest speaker at the Seminary’s annual Edwards Lecture
on Monday evening, February 10, in Hundley Hall at 7 p.m.
By incorporating mixed media, audio clips, and images into his presentation, Wiggins hopes to enlighten participants about the roots of religious music in the African American Church and its evolution from “Spiritual” to “Gospel” and even “Rap” within the contexts of oppression, the pursuit of freedom, protest, and the struggle for civil rights.
Wiggins earned the Bachelors of Divinity degree from Interdenominational Theological Seminary in 1961 and then enrolled in the Master of Theology degree program at Louisville Seminary in 1964. Upon completing a Ph.D. at Indiana University’s (IU) Folklore Institute, Wiggins helped establish the formal African American Studies program there. By 1971, the fledgling program became a department with the ability to hire tenure-line faculty. Wiggins was one of the original faculty members and is the only one still teaching full time today.
The department, newly renamed the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies, has grown to 80 majors and 14 minors with more than 1000 students attending classes each semester. An Honors program was established in 1994. A Master’s Degree in Afro-American Studies was formally approved in the winter of 1997, and a Ph.D. minor is also offered.
The Edwards Lecture
event was endowed to honor Louisville Seminary Professor Emeritus George Edwards and his wife Jean Edwards and to address issues of peacemaking and social justice.
On February 9, when The Stillman College
Choir performs in the Seminary’s Frank H. and Fannie W. Caldwell Chapel, the 35-member singing group will demonstrate its ability to perform distinct styles of church music composed over four centuries: European, Spirituals, and contemporary gospel music.
Under the direction of Phillip Westgate, director of choral activities and associate professor of Music since 1992, Stillman’s choir has performed for the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Alabama Governor’s Arts Awards Program, and the annual meeting of The College fund/UNCF. The choir has appeared in concert in 35 states, the District of Columbia and the Republic of Mexico. They have been featured on National Public Radio and were commissioned to perform the Mozart “Requiem” with the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra.
Stillman College has Presbyterian roots. In 1876, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, under the initiative of the Rev. Dr. Charles Allen Stillman, authorized the creation of an institute in Tuscaloosa to provide training for black ministers of the gospel. Today, with an enrollment of 1,500, it is an accredited coeducational, liberal arts college that has helped to produce a distinguished black ministry, some of whom have walked with kings and presidents of the world.
Both events will be held free of charge. For more information contact the Office of Communications
, 502.895.3411, ext. 460.