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The History of Black Sacred Music

We’re asking all of our family and friends to join the Gospel Music Historical Society as we recount the evolution of African American scared music.  From early spirituals to the present day gospels. With God's blessing this event will  raise funds for the Sarah Weeden Richardson Minority Scholarship Fund at the Fine Arts Association in Willoughby, OH. Performances are scheduled for Saturday, April 27 at 6:00 PM and Sunday, April 28 at 3:00 PM at the Fine Arts Association, 38660 Mentor Avenue, Willoughby, Ohio 44094. Tickets are $10.00 for adults and $5.00 for children and can be purchased at  For more details, contact 216-513-4668.

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The Shields Brothers began their singing career in 1928 becoming Cleveland’s premiere gospel quartet for more than seventy years.  The group members were Lee Crosby, Arthur Beasley, Arthur Turner, James Henderson and Claude Shields Sr.  They paved the way for Black gospel quartet music as we know it today.

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The Cleveland Coloured Quintet were electrifying singers, their style of singing not only lifted an audience, it raised the roof. Between 1912 and the 1950’s members of the group made a significant contribution to the history of the Alliance Church and had an international impact for Christ during their time.


Anyone wanting to hear the quintet during their popularity, would covet an orchestra seat for their appearance. They recorded with the prestigious Columbia recording company and would eventually go on to gain international recognition, traveling throughout Europe, 

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The WINGS OVER JORDAN CHOIR (WOJC) were a prominent African American choir during the late 1930s and early 1940s. They made broadcast history with the first independently produced national and international radio programs created by AFRICAN AMERICANS. The group made contributions to choral music and the improvement of race relations. The choir was founded in 1935 by the Rev. GLENN T. SETTLE, pastor of Gethsemane Baptist Church on E. 30th and Scovill Ave. in Cleveland Ohio. Rev. Settle believed in using Negro spirituals to spread Christianity. He promoted establishing a radio program to address the Negro community and introduce the non-Negro to the Negro experience. In 1937, the ensemble performed weekly on the “Negro Hour” over RADIO station WGAR, a CBS affiliate.


On 9 Jan. 1938 the group adopted the name Wings Over Jordan Choir and national broadcasting began. WOJC performed a decade long series of weekly, sometimes daily, programs for CBS and WGAR exclusively. WOJC was the first full-time professional black choir in America. At its height, the choir performed before sold-out, non-segregated audiences in over 40 states, 5 European countries, Canada, and Mexico. During WORLD WAR II, under USO sponsorship, WOJC toured Army camps in Europe. WOJC’s fame resulted in the publication of a songbook and record album, a movie contract, performances with major symphony orchestras, and an invitation to sing at the White House. The choir received numerous honors, including radio’s prestigious Peabody Award. It was instrumental in preserving authentic Negro spirituals and became the universal voice of American Negroes.

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In 1936 Mrs. Etta Mae Hurd, Mrs. Johnnie Mae Feagen and Brother Leroy Gaynor formed “The Sunray Gospel Singers”.  The group consisted of Mrs. Etta M. (Feagan) Hurd, Miss Thelma Coleman, Miss Josephine Knight and Beulah Smith.  In 1937 Mr. Leroy Gaynor changed the name to The Elite Jewels.  Under Mr. Gaynor’s direstion the group traveled to various cities across the state singing Gods praises.  Shortly afterwards Mr. Arthur Turner became their manager and these talented, anointed women of God soon made fans across the country.

Currently the group is being led by Mrs. Willie Mae Reese and shows no sign of slowing down even as they near the century mark, celebrating 87 years of ministry in 2022.  The Jewels have had their ups and downs, but the Good Lord has blessed them to have more ups than downs.

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Concerts and Programs

First Mondays - Jazz'N

Walk of Fame - Hometown Giants

GMHS Mission


The Gospel Music Historical Society is a public charitable foundation whose purpose is to educate, promote and preserve the rich heritage of gospel music.  This is done through education, event programming, networking, and workshops. We use our resources to encourage and support the success of GMHS Gospel artist.   We raise funds and make gifts and donations in support of the arts, education, literacy, health, welfare and organizations that further our purpose. 

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