Baylor Journalism Professor Awarded Centennial Professor Honor

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Centennial Professor Award recipient Dr. Robert Darden
April 30, 2008

by Paige Patton, communication specialist, (254) 710-3321

Dr. Robert Darden, associate professor of journalism at Baylor University, has been selected for the 2008 Baylor Centennial Professor award, which will allow him to research black gospel artists and the effects of their music on the Civil Rights Movement.

The Centennial Professor Award coincides with Darden's work on the Charles M. Royce Black Gospel Music Restoration Project. In May 2006, he received $350,000 to develop the Project, which will allow Baylor to acquire, clean, digitize and catalogue black gospel music, preserving it for generations. The ultimate goal of the Project is to preserve and store a digital copy of the audio long term, and to provide standards-based discovery tools through an online interface into a full catalog of materials, along with 30-second samples of all tracks from the audio archive.

Darden will use the Centennial grant to conduct research at the Birmingham Public Library and Civil Rights Museum, which have large repositories of tapes of church services, public gatherings, speeches and concerts related to the Civil Rights Movement.

"The speeches and sermons are well-chronicled," Darden said. "But what I'm interested in are the songs and gospel artists who precede the speeches. It appears that a number of the early public appearances by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others were sponsored by well-known (in the African American community) black gospel artists. I will be doing a number of interviews with people who were active in the Civil Rights Movement and gospel artists from that era as well."

Each day, Baylor receives rare 78s, 45s, and LPs arrive from the "golden age" of black gospel music, which overlaps with the Civil Rights Movement.

"I'm discovering that a number of the 'B' sides of gospel 45s have songs about Civil Rights and Martin Luther King Jr.," Darden said.

Darden is a former Gospel Music editor for Billboard Magazine and is author of People Get Ready: A New History of Black Gospel Music (2004, Continuum International Publishing Group).

The Class of 1945--the Baylor Centennial Class--established an endowment fund to support faculty development. Each year a tenured faculty member is designated as the Baylor Centennial Professor and is provided with funds for a project that will facilitate the development of his or her ability to function as a university professor and contribute to academic life.

Past recipients of the Centennial Professor Award include Dr. Joe B. Fulton (English), Dr. Richard Riley (political science), Dr. Eric Rust (history), Dr. Michael Long (modern foreign languages) and Dr. Karl Umlauf (art).

For more information on the Centennial Professor Award, contact Dr. Joe Cox, chair of the Centennial Faculty Development Review Committee, at (254) 710-6193.

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