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Mary D. Williams Concert

June 16, 2018 @ 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church and Carolina Public Humanities are partnering to present acclaimed singer, Mary D. Williams, in a concert. Her program is entitled “From Slavery to Civil Rights.” This concert is free and open to the public. In it, she will highlight the way in which spirituals emerged from African culture, Christian influences, and the brutal institution of slavery. The day was chosen because it is just days from the anniversary of the historic “Juneteenth,” the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. It dates back to June 19, 1865, when the Union soldiers, landing at Galveston, Texas brought with them the news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.

Mary D. Williams is a singer, educator, and historian who has devoted herself to the spirituals she learned as a child from her family and church. Her reputation as a gospel singer led author Timothy Tyson to ask her to join him as he was promoting his book “Blood Done Signed My Name.” The two enjoyed their collaboration so much, they now teach the course “The South in Black and White” together. This course which has been taught at Duke, NC Central, and UNC-Chapel Hill, covers the history of racism and activism in the South, from slavery to Civil Rights. Songs are a big part of the story. Her music adds cultural context to lessons and highlights the way music shaped social change in the United States.

But these songs are also personal. She has said “Singing was my salvation, in terms of my relationship with Christ, my relationship in church, my marriage. It was a way of me being counseled because the lyrics of songs touched me.” It is the older traditional material that calls to her and which provide a deep emotional connection- songs like “Oh Freedom” or “We Shall Not Be Moved.