The sounds of gospel music, a touchstone of African American religious life and culture, swell through the films by Micah Ariel Watson (UVA ’18). In celebration of Black History Month, UVA Democracy Initiative’Memory Project and the Religion, Race & Democracy Lab hosted a screening and conversation between Micah Ariel Watson and Ashon Crawley, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and of African American Studies at the University of Virginia.

Featured films:

40th & State (2018), the 2019 Best Documentary winner at Black Web Fest, is an homage to Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, the Pentecostal congregation on Chicago’s south side which hosted the 1955 funeral for young lynching victim Emmett Till, a pivotal event in launching the Civil Rights Movement.

Barky’s (2019) turns a lens on Barky’s Spiritual Record Store, a gospel music retailer in the heart of gentrifying Richmond, Virginia.

(Above: still from 40th & State, courtesy the artist.)

Resources & Readings

“From R&B to gospel, Barky’s has changed with the times,” Richmond Free Press, April 24, 2015. (accessed March 3, 2021).

Callard, Abby. “Emmett Till’s Casket Goes to the Smithsonian,” Smithsonian Magazine. November, 2009. (accessed March 3, 2021).

Crawley, Ashon. Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility New York City: Fordham Press, 2016. (accessed March 3, 2021).

Harrison, Don. “Just Add Jesus: Barky’s Spiritual Store,” Style Weekly, March 17, 2004. (accessed March 3, 2021).

Smith, Marcia, writer. The Murder of Emmett Till. Directed by Stanley Nelson. Aired January 20, 2003, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) American Experience. PBS, 2003. (accessed March 3, 2021).

Watson, Micah A., “Black Enough” YouTube series.

In 2020, the National Trust designated Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ as one of 11 Most Endangered Places. Learn more and donate here: