About the Film
Ethel Caffie-Austin, a daughter of the coalfields, is West Virginia's "First Lady of Gospel Music." This program features Ethel performing a range of spirituals, hymns and contemporary gospel numbers that represent the rich cultural heritage of African American song and worship. Ethel's enthusiasm and belief in the redemptive power of faith are apparent as she is seen teaching gospel to a youth group, ministering to inmates at a state prison, and leading the choir at the Black Sacred Music Festival in Institute, WV. Oral history, archival material, and interviews are combined with performance footage to tell a powerful story of a personal freedom and triumph through faith, wisdom, and the support of a caring community. Ms. Austin has had numerous honors awarded her throughout the United States and Europe. She was guest artist at Wolf Trap, has sung with Pete Seeger, and appeared on West Virginia's Mountain Stage with Joan Baez, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and Kathy Mattea. She made her debut at the Kennedy Center in Women of Gospel, a musical review of great African-American female gospel music singers, in February, 1991.