Take a look at the mini-documentary that Yahoo! Studios produced for Black History Month. It’s about a little-known yet beloved tradition, found in mostly Southern African American Baptist churches, known as “lining” or “raising” hymns. It is a unique style of singing hymns that is earthy, soulful, and utterly beautiful.
Hymn lining developed during slavery in the 19th century, as Baptist missionaries converted slaves to Christianity. The slaves took the hymns they learned and infused them with African tonal languages and rhythmic and percussive hand clapping and stomping. It is a dying art, yet a mighty few have dedicated themselves to keeping the practice alive and we profile some of these dedicated hymn “liners.”
Troy Demps, 86, is trying to preserve the haunting art of hymn-lining. A celebrated tradition that dates back to slavery, hymn lining incorporates African tonal languages and rhythmic and percussive hand clapping and stomping.