1937 - 1986 Person Name: J. Jefferson Cleveland (1937-1988) Harmonizer of "[Chariot rode on the mountaintop]" in Lift Every Voice and Sing II Judge Jefferson Cleveland (1937-1986) was one of the most important scholars and editors of African-American congregational song of the 20th century. Along with Verogla Nix, he edited what is arguably the most groundbreaking collection of African-American song in the last half of the 20th century, Songs of Zion (1981/1982).
Lutheran hymnologist Marilyn Stulken provides a biographical sketch of Cleveland’s life and accomplishments. Born in Georgia, Cleveland graduated from Clark College (Atlanta), Illinois Wesleyan University and received his doctorate in education from Boston University.
He served on the faculty of three historically black Christian colleges: Claflin College (South Carolina), Langston University (Oklahoma), and Jarvis Christian College (Texas), before teaching at the University of Massachusetts and Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.
Cleveland’s musical arrangements, historical research and scholarship on the performance practice of African-American song have proven invaluable for the advancement of black gospel song, not only among African Americans, but also in Anglo hymnals to the present day. For example, Cleveland’s essay, “A Historical Account of the Hymn in the Black Worship Experience,” in Songs of Zion is a helpful introduction for laypersons and scholars alike.
In addition to serving as a hymnody consultant for the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship, he toured the United States and Africa in 1981 and Europe in 1984 as a teacher, lecturer and performer.
J. Jefferson Cleveland