Those who know of the Rev. Dr. Charles Albert Tindley, if asked to name the city they think of in conjunction with the seminal minister and composer, would likely say Philadelphia.
Not many people know the man widely considered to be one of the forefathers of contemporary gospel music is, actually, a Berliner.
It’s a trivia question today, but more people could learn of Tindley’s roots after the Worcester County Commissioners last Tuesday unanimously approved the Town of Berlin’s request to seek a grant to commission a large mural of the reverend on the side of the Bruder Hill boutique on Commerce Street.
“This is an exciting project,” said Lisa Challenger, director of the Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Council. “We’re hoping this is part of a larger piece of African American heritage (in the community). We’re excited.
“We have permission from the Bruder Hill owners to have it on the side of their building. It’s right where the parking lot is. It’s a really big, blank canvas, which is exciting. We have a meeting coming up next week with the artist who we would like to do it.”
Some funding has already been secured through the Rural Maryland Council, Challenger said.
Even those who have never heard of Tindley likely have heard his work. He composed many renowned civil rights hymns such as “We Shall Overcome” and “Stand By Me.”
Born in 1851, Tindley moved to Philadelphia following the Civil War, where his career took off. Even on his Wikipedia entry, his connection to Berlin is little more than a footnote.
Tindley died in 1933 at 82 years old.
“It was brought to us that there was an effort afoot to want some kind of dedication and very public art exhibit of the reverend,” Challenger said. “We just thought this mural would be so large and captivating and a lot of eyeballs would see it because the Town of Berlin has just gotten so crowded and crazy, which is a good thing.”
Challenger added that the hope is the mural will also inspire more people to check out the rest of the county, from Berlin to Pocomoke City.
“He’s a nationally recognized figure as the father of gospel music,” Challenger said. “It’s pretty cool that he was born right here in Berlin. Philadelphia really grabbed the opportunity to say ‘Hey, he lived here and we’re going to celebrate him,’ and now we want to say ‘We’re going to celebrate him too.’”