Charles Albert Tindley

7 July 1851–26 July 1933

CHARLES ALBERT TINDLEY (b. Berlin, Md., July 7, 1851; d. Philadelphia, Pa., July 26, 1933), a Methodist preacher, was the son of slave parents, Charles and Esther Tindley. His mother died when he was four years old, and the following year he was separated from his father. By his own determination he learned to read and write when he was seventeen. Shortly afterward, he moved to Philadelphia, worked as a hod carrier, was janitor of a small church, and attended night school. He took a correspondence course from the Boston School of Theology.

Ordained to the Methodist ministry, he joined the Delaware Annual Conference in 1885 and served the following charges: South Wilmington, Delaware, 1885-86; Cape May, New Jersey, 1886-87; Odessa, Delaware, 1887-89; Pocomoke Circuit, Maryland, 1889-92; Fairmount, Maryland, 1892-95; Ezion Delaware, 1895-97; Wilmington, Delaware, 1897-99; presiding elder of the Wilmington District, 1899-1902.

In 1902 he became pastor of the Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church of Philadelphia, the church where he had once been janitor. So successful was his leadership that, in 1907, a new building was needed for the growing congregation. A new building was erected at Broad and Fitzwater Streets in 1924, and, in spite of his protests, the church was renamed the Tindley Temple Methodist Church. Here he preached to great throngs of people. Both blacks and whites were represented in the leadership of the church, along with Italians, Jews, Germans, Norwegians, Mexicans, and Danes.

He wrote both words and music for many gospel songs, among the most popular of which are “Nothing between,” “Leave It There,” “I Have Found at Last a Savior,” “Stand by Me,” and “We’ll Understand it Better By and By.” It was Tindley’s song “I’ll Overcome Some Day,” written in 1901, that served as a basis, more in spirit and thought than in actual words or melody, for “We Shall Overcome,” a theme song of the civil rights movement.

by William J. Reynolds
Hymns of Our Faith (1964)

Featured Hymns:

The storm is passing over
We’ll understand it better by and by

Collections of Hymns:

Soul Echoes No. 1 (1905)
Soul Echoes No. 2 (1909): HathiTrust
New Songs of Paradise (1916): HathiTrust
New Songs of Paradise No. 4 (1923): WorldCat
New Songs of Paradise No. 5 (1934): PDF
New Songs of Paradise No. 6 (1941): PDF

Related Resources:

E.F. Tindley, The Prince of Preachers: The Remarkable Story of Charles Albert Tindley of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Flint, MI: Schultz Print. Co., 1942): WorldCat

William J. Reynolds, “Charles Albert Tindley,” Hymns of Our Faith (Nashville: Broadman, 1964), pp. 423-424.

Ralph H. Jones, Charles Albert Tindley: Prince of Preachers (Nashville: Abingdon, 1982): WorldCat

Bernice Johnson Reagon, “Searching for Tindley,” We'll Understand It Better By and By (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian, 1992), pp. 37-52: WorldCat

Horace Clarence Boyer, “Charles Albert Tindley, progenitor of African American gospel music,” We'll Understand It Better By and By (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian, 1992), pp. 53-78: WorldCat

S.T. Kimbrough, Jr. & Carlton R. Young, eds., Beams of Heaven: Hymns of Charles Albert Tindley (NY: United Methodist Church, 2006): WorldCat

Charles Albert Tindley,

J.R. Watson & Carlton Young, “Charles Albert Tindley,” Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology:

William H. Brackney, “Charles Albert Tindley,” American National Biography: