Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS)


Liberal Studies

First Advisor

Sheldon Solomon

Second Advisor

Bradford Verter


Dorothy Love Coates' obituary in the New York Times declared that she provided "a subtle but substantial role in the civil rights movement" ("Dorothy Love Coates"). While widely acknowledged, this fact has scant documentation in the major literature on gospel music. I will examine how the efforts of gospel singer and civil rights activist Dorothy Love Coates (1928-2002) worked as a catalyst to activate modern gospel music to support the American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and early 1960s. I will argue that Dorothy Love Coates acted as a vital link in the development of gospel music, taking it from a predominantly religious and social art form to a critical tool for the Southern Civil Rights movement of this period. This thesis will examine the development of the Black church after the Civil War and its corresponding religious music, the rise of Gospel in the 1930s, and the Pentecostal church as it relates to Black religious music. While these threads in the Black community are deeply interrelated, it is the central argument of this thesis that Dorothy Love Coates, "Dot," uniquely weaved together the threads of classic gospel music and Sanctified-Pentecostal gestalt and in the process forever changed both gospel music and the civil rights movement.