National Public Radio hopes to bring to life two centuries of a rich song tradition in a series of 26 hourlong programs beginning Jan. 4.

The series is titled "Wade in the Water: African American Sacred Music Traditions." Through song and music, storytelling and historical analysis, it documents the history of black Americans from the time of their arrival here.The programs will offer sacred-music recordings, including rare archival material enhanced for broadcasting by digital processing. The series will focus on leading composers and lyricists, traditions such as spirituals and gospel singing, and the influence of sacred music on classical music and jazz.

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The series is a collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History.

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