born to a slave father and free mother near Berlin, Maryland
Composer of many Christian Hymns including "We Shall Overcome"
which became the anthem for Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's
Known as the Father of Gospel Music.
Charles A. Tindley was born in the Town of
Berlin, in Worcester County on Maryland's Lower Eastern Shore on July 7,
1851. He was born on the Joseph Brindell farm where his father was a
slave and his mother was free born. His mother died when he was
young and he was raised by his sister until he was old enough to be hired
out for work. He worked along side slaves, though he was free and
his free status was recognized.
He had no formal elementary education and taught himself to read and
write. Eventually he worked as a janitor to put himself through
night school while simultaneously earning a Divinity Degree via a
correspondence course. In 1902 he became a pastor at the very church
where he formerly served as a janitor. It had 130 members when he
took it over. The congregation grew to about 10,000 members under
Charles and included both Blacks and Whites.
Charles was a powerful preacher, a superior pastor (known as "the
people's pastor") and a pioneering song writer. His soulful
lyrics, rooted in the depth of feeling that rises from an oppressed
people, chanted love - not hate, patience and tolerance - not revenge or
retaliation. One of his hymns, "I Shall Overcome" was
modified and became the now famous "We Shall Overcome" which
served as the anthem for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's and is
widely sung in Christian Churches all over the world..
Charles Tindley's hymns still appear in hymnals and songbooks used by
all Christian Denominations. Technically, he was a musical
illiterate. Evidently, he dictated the tunes and lyrics to a
transcriber. He noted for writing over 30 hymns and is often
referred to as the "Father of Gospel Music."