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Famous African American Christians

Thomas Dorsey's historical marker in Villa Rica, Georgia

Precious LORD, take my hand, lead me on, help me stand…
Have you ever heard this line? You probably have. It’s the words penned by Thomas Dorsey. There was a big band leader named Tommy Dorsey, this is not him. If you’ve seen the great documentary “Say Amen Somebody”, you know who Thomas Dorsey is.
He is known as the Father of Gospel Music.

It wasn’t always that way.

Thomas Dorsey was a talented musician. He wanted to try the worldly way with music. He wanted to make money in music. He was a pianist in an Al Capone speakeasy up in the Chicago area. He was a prolific writer of blues and jazz music. However, God used one of the evils of the day, overt racism to drive him away from the line of music he favored. He was being rejected because of the color of his skin, something he hoped he’d left behind in his hometown in Georgia.

What man meant for evil, God meant for good, and so Thomas Dorsey turned to gospel music. His dad, a baptist minister would approve. Shortly after turning to Gospel music
his wife became pregnant. They looked forward to the day that arrived with great heartache. In giving birth, Mrs. Dorsey passed from this life.

A grieving Thomas Dorsey turned to what he knew best. His faith in Christ carried him and in his sorrow he penned the words he’s most famous for.

Precious LORD, take my hand, Lead me on, help me stand. I am tired, I am weak, I am worn; Thro the storm, thro the night, lead me on to the light, Take my hand, precious LORD, lead me home.

The sang helped his fame spread. He stayed true to his calling¸ to spread the gospel through music. His writing actually inspired maybe the first American “worship war”. The reaction of the blues inspired gospel music he wrote in churches was controversial.
The music inspired lively ‘movement’, we’d probably call it dance. Many traditionalists were aghast. But it grew in popularity and the lively genre of gospel music was developed into a standard form of worship music.

At the end of his life this is what Thomas Dorsey, the first in our famous African American Christians series, wrote: “all my work has been from God, for God, and for his people.”

And he’s someone you should know!

(See my January 30 blog for an explanation of this series)

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