Biography of the Preacher Billy Graham

Billy Graham: World Shaker

Billy Graham was an evangelistic man dedicated to spreading the word of God to the people of America and abroad. Throughout his work, he built many bridges to repair the broken relationship between the Catholic and Protestant beliefs. He revolutionized the way the gospel was shared through public events known as “crusades”. Graham even was able to go as far as speaking in the White House during Truman, Nixon, and John F. Kennedy’s presidencies. Billy Graham greatly impacted the people of America through his widespread efforts to preach the Word of God across the country and to mend the relations between the Catholic and Protestant Church because of his establishment and work through gospel-rooted organizations

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BIOGRAPHY AND ANALYSIS

 On a farm in Charlotte, North Carolina, Graham was raised through the Great Depression (Bruns 13). Although he did not have a very prosperous beginning, he went on to attend two colleges (“How BillyGraham Shaped American Catholicism”), through which many of his friends referred to him as a “preacher.” (Bruns 16) His humble upbringing crafted a story that appealed to others who lived through the Great Depression, inspiring the public in a sense that things could get better from there.  Graham cultivated his passion for evangelical work throughout college, where he and a friend worked to spread the word. Billy Graham and his Canadian friend, Charles Templeton, were close through the beginning of their careers, captivating their audiences with Templeton’s gift for mesmerizing speech and Graham’s ability to speak substance to the soul. Though the two of them reaped massive movement and monumental results throughout these early years, Graham believed that he and Templeton rallied the crowds more so with their “good looks” and “high energy levels” instead of with the power of God. (Aikman 59) Following disputes between the two led to their splitting of ways and Graham’s deeper plunge into the world of speaking.

After gaining a few more years of experience and a touch more confidence in the impact of his message, Graham went on to hold the first of his “crusades” – a religious gathering held at night which contains a sermon, possibly some hymns, and a chance for those listening to publicly accept Christ – in Los Angeles, this going on for eight weeks straight. Graham led these crusades all over the country, converting hundreds of people along his journey, and didn’t stop there. Like that, at the age of 31, Graham’s movement really took off, leading to him even consulting with presidents, as covered in The Preacher and the Presidents, by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. The significance of this event was to lay the template down for his quick growth through the religious world, beginning his journey to greatly shift the thinking of those around him.

 Amongst all this, on July 14, 1950, Billy Graham visited former President Truman to discuss the rising fear of the people around the ongoing Korean War – some fearing that it could be the start of WWII. He called upon him to “get a microphone and encourage the people.” (Gibbs 24) At the end of this meeting, Graham went on to pray for the president before leaving humbly, unknowing to the trap that awaited him outside. Here, he was confronted by the press; being new to these situations, Graham dutifully answered all of the reporters’ questions, breaking Truman’s trust as he went. A famous picture of Graham and his friends kneeling on the lawn of the White House and praying shattered his stance with the former president, “the only president who suspected Graham might be a phony.” (Gibbs 26) This was significant because it led to an opportunity for him to apologize and restore his character, even though, Graham writes in his autobiography, “Mr. Truman never asked me to come back.” Where this was the case during Truman’s presidency, the two men eventually made up; the former president accepted Graham’s apology telling him, “Don’t worry about it… I realized you hadn’t been properly briefed.” (Graham xxiii) Restoring his standing with Truman helped Graham to continue his workings through the White House, later to become a close friend and trusted advisor for the future presidents of his time.

Graham’s rapidly gaining publicity eventually lead him, his friends, and a few others to establish the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association – the BGEA, as often referred to – in 1950, and with it, began their ministry in many television stations, a radio program named the “Hour of Decision” which aired weekly, and even magazines and more! (“Billy Graham Evangelistic Association”) All of these outlets enabled Graham to reach out to Americans everywhere and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ like never before, which only increased the rate of his soaring popularity. By this time, he was still preaching to the masses in his crusades, all the while peacefully broadcasting his beliefs through the medias. His radio program was broadcasted for 60 years and his far reaching television influence peaked at 1,200 stations country-wide, which meant not only that by the time he had all of this going on he was a famous personality with a powerful voice, but it also meant that he broke evangelistic records and became one of the most well-known evangelicals. Graham spoke to the people and always honestly sought to teach others about having full relationships with the Lord. The BGEA spread the Word of God far and wide whether it be through: lengthy crusades, broad television channels, radio shows, magazines, or even newspaper columns.

Utilizing such methods, Graham always held a belief that all faiths of Christ should be accepted and well met, especially vocalizing on Catholicism and Protestantism and how elephant often only focus on what makes the faiths different rather than realizing what unites the faiths together. In this way, Billy Graham introduced and practiced a new manner of thinking through the medias, which inspired and brought together the American people. He built strong relationships with many influential members of the Catholic Church, earning praise from Cardinal Richard Cushing; who stated that “Graham’s message was good for Catholics” and that “God will bless [Graham’s] preaching and crusade.” (“How Billy Graham Shaped American Catholicism”) Not only this, but he had also become close to Pope John Paul II, who agreed to take a picture with Graham, having told him privately that “We are brothers.” (Graham 489) 

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But this didn’t just bring innovation and the people’s approval, critics called him a traitor and a false preacher, as shown in Jon M. Sweeney’s article in the America Magazine “How Billy Graham Shaped American Catholicism,”where he stated that Graham’s support of Catholicism, among other religions, led to other Protestants to “…disown Mr. Graham as a betrayer of the true faith.” He faced much hate and opposition, people downright calling him a liar and growing suspicious of his connections with the Catholic Church, they believed he had to choose a side. Although among all of the criticism, Graham stood strong in his ambition to bring the Catholic and Protestant peoples together. This greatly shifted the way the two once hostile religions, perceive one another, mending broken soil between them.

Although Graham’s critics throw false accusations and insults, Billy Graham was clearly someone who wanted to bring people together in faith to recognize God, and did his best effort to do so. People often accused Graham of being “ecumenical, a charge to which he freely pleads guilty.” (Aikman 256) Graham rightfully agreed that of being “ecumenical” because that was exactly what he was going for – to bring faiths together so they could stop focusing on their differences. For once Graham and his criticizers were on the same page, that he was ecumenical and wanted nothing more than to bring everyone closer to God together.

CONCLUSION

Throughout his life, Billy Graham preached according to his beliefs and aspiration for change, never wavering in his purpose. He worked with many churches, ministries, and organizations, even creating one himself – the Billy Graham Evangelical Association – through which he most famously televised his sermons and messages to people across America. No matter what he did, he did it for the Lord, his God; even going as far as to travel around the country in so called “crusades” and continuing such elongated sermons abroad in rural or urban settings. He stood strong against those who criticized him and took responsibility for his mistakes, of which there were many, and many still that people criticize Graham for. Bad run-ins with former president Harry Truman led to large conflicts with the peacemaking evangelist. Yet, like the elephant man that he was, he took the initiative and worked diligently to restore his relationship with Truman; never with the intent of political gain or public recognition. He had set out to be friends with every president throughout his career, and he wasn’t going to lose that just because he made a mistake and offended someone. As a man of strong integrity and captivating character, Graham set a precedent for the way movement should look and how those in influential positions should carry out their goals and ambitions. When others compared their faiths and argued in disagreement, Graham carved a new way to unite everyone praising the same God. He did so by majorly spreading the Word of God through the various medias such as his radio show which lasted 60 years, or his sermons that broadcasted live on TV for hundreds of stations. Because of it he stood by many of our former presidents, made friends with two popes, had light conversation with President Kim Il Sung of North Korea, and set a new standard of action for those who strive to follow after his cause. Dedicated to working with and not against those of differing faiths, Graham created a new structure for movement that built off of what he had learned from working so closely with others, he revolutionized how people thought about religion, and ultimately brought thousands among thousands of people to faith and salvation.

Works Cited

Aikman, David. Billy Graham: His Life and Influence. Thomas Nelson, 2010.

“Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.” Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, billygraham.org/.

Bruns, Roger A. Billy Graham: a Biography. Greenwood Press, 2004.

Gibbs, Nancy, and Michael Duffy. The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House. Center Street, 2008.

Graham, Billy. Just as I Am: the Autobiography of Billy Graham. Harper Luxe, 2007.

“How Billy Graham Shaped American Catholicism.” America Magazine, 22 Mar. 2018, www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2018/02/21/how-billy-graham-shaped-american-catholicism.

McLoughlin, William G. Jr. Modern Revivalism: Charles Grandison Finney to Billy Graham. Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2004.

The Life and Ministry of Billy Graham

Introduction

 When Billy Graham was born, no one could have predicted the influence he would one day have on his country, the world, and the global church. Since 1949, when the world first took notice of his crusade in Los Angeles, until his death on February 21, 2018, Graham was a well-respected evangelist, author, and public figure. Graham preached the simple, naturally-offensive message of the Gospel to people all around the world. It is safe to say that no single evangelist has preached to more people in their lifetime than Billy Graham. Because of the rise of television, radio, and now internet video technology, Graham’s proclamation of the Gospel was heard by countless millions the world over. Graham also preached to more people in person than any other human being, selling out arenas and speaking to the largest recorded gathering of listeners in history in South Korea with a live audience of at least 1,000,000 people. These are fantastic numbers, but it is vital to examine Graham’s impact on the world and the church as a whole. When the crusades packed up and left town, what happened to the souls who walked the aisles while “Just as I Am” played, indicating a desire to be saved? This essay will seek to briefly examine several areas of Billy Graham’s life and ministry and cultivate a better understanding of his beliefs, methodologies, theology, and impact on the church.

Early Life

     William Franklin Graham Jr. was born in Charlotte, NC, on his parents’ modest property just outside the city. For a man who would have so much impact on Christianity, he began his life with a somewhat apathetic attitude towards religion. In his autobiography, Just As I Am, Graham states that there was “…about (the church I grew up in) to make it lively for me, not even in the youth group.”[1] This is a sad statement, and Billy Graham remained fairly uninterested in church until he went to a Mordecai Hamm tent revival at age 16. It was there that he heard the Gospel clearly, gave his life to Christ, and made a “complete 180-degree turn” as he describes it.[2]

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After high school, Graham attended Bob Jones College in Cleveland, TN, briefly; however, he found the teaching and policies to be too legalistic. After one run in with school leadership, Billy Graham was nearly expelled from the school. Bob Jones would later recall telling him that he had a voice that could pull people in, and that God could use that voice of his.[3] In the end, Graham would transfer after one semester to Florida Bible Institute, a small Bible college near Tampa, FL.

After graduating from Bible school, Graham went on to get a degree from Wheaton College outside of Chicago, IL. It was at Wheaton that he met the love of his life, Ruth Bell, whose parents were long-time missionaries in Asia.[4] Billy and Ruth were married in 1943.[5] Later in 1943, Graham pastored his first congregation, the United Gospel Tabernacle near Wheaton. Then, in 1948, Billy became president of Northwestern Bible College in Minneapolis. He was the youngest college president in the nation—a testament to his sharp intellect and superb leadership qualities.[6]

External Influences

 The young Billy Graham had many influences in his ministry career, but a few stand out. Though Graham was saved at a Mordecai Hamm revival, it is interesting to note that his preaching style ended up being decidedly different from Hamm’s, whose accusatory tone and sometimes harsh treatment of the crowd was controversial in his time. Instead, Graham seems influenced in his preaching by other preachers, theologians, and evangelists who ministered just before his time, such D. L. Moody and Billy Sunday. Sunday’s evangelistic style, in particular, seems to have stuck with Billy Graham. His fiery, tent revivals, and clear communication style was later echoed in the young Billy Graham.

 Beyond these famous evangelists whose ministry resembles Graham’s, not much is known of his influences. We do know that he attended local church regularly, and while at Florida Bible Institute, he began to preach for the first time. Graham also looked up to his contemporaries, including Charles Templeton, who was a well-known evangelist comparable to a young Billy Graham before turning from the faith and writing several works professing atheism.[7]

Writings

 Though remembered as a preacher and evangelist, Graham penned 33 books and short writings for the benefit of the church. Graham wrote several books that became best sellers, such as Angels: God’s Secret Agents, How to be Born Again, The Holy Spirit, and The Jesus Generation. Graham’s writings range from evangelistic in tone to having a fairly deep theological premise, such as Angels and The Holy Spirit, which examine the doctrines of angels and the Holy Spirit, two fairly difficult and widely debated doctrines.

 One of the most influential writings Graham wrote was titled Peace with God. The work of this book became a classic Gospel tract which has been translated into at least eight languages and distributed across the globe. Because of the internationally known and well-respected name of Billy Graham, many would read a short tract penned by him that would not normally read a Gospel tract, wondering what the appeal of this man could be.

 Beyond Graham’s published works, his radio and television ministries reached millions. Graham had a weekly radio show, The Hour of Decision, which reached audiences around the globe for more than 50 years. The BGEA still airs television broadcasts of Graham’s sermons (taken mostly from various crusades throughout his career). The broadcasts include a telephone number which listeners can call and reach a live counselor with questions about the Gospel or salvation. The true impact these broadcasts have made for the Kingdom of God is unknown. My wife’s own grandfather was saved one night when, on a business trip, he flipped on the television to see Billy Graham preaching. The fiery but clear presentation kept his interest, and the message of the Gospel cut right to his heart. That night, though he grew up in church and had accepted the premise of the Gospel, he realized that he did not have a relationship with God. He got on his knees in his hotel room and began that relationship, and today he is in Heaven, along with the preacher he listened to that night.

Theology and Methodology

 Some would criticize Billy Graham as having not given enough time and credit to theological matters over his career. Many people, both secular and religious, have stated a distaste for the massive crusade crowds, wondering if true conversion really took place, or simply emotional decisions. This essay seeks to briefly evaluate some of the theological and methodological practices and beliefs that shaped Graham’s ministry.

One critic of Graham’s ministry, Joe E. Barnhart, wrote a book analyzing Graham’s theology and methodology entitled The Billy Graham Religion. The book is truly a critique of evangelicalism, but critiques the entire evangelical theology by critiquing its most well-known voice at the time of its authorship, which was Billy Graham. Barnhart writes that Graham’s evangelical style was like that of an early 20th Century “miracle medicine” salesman—promising a quick cure and making a hard sell for the product.[8] Barnhart compares the simple Gospel Graham proclaims to a fairytale.[9] While, from a secular perspective, this is a fair and understandable assessment of evangelism, the question arises—if Billy Graham believed what he said was true, and that the Gospel of Jesus is the only way of salvation, why would he not make as hard a “sell” as he could? Why would he not proclaim the message as broadly, boldly, and simply as he could? Barnhart’s unbelief is his own decision; however, if Graham truly believed what he preached, then his methodology matched his message.

 In his book Examining Billy Graham’s Theology of Evangelism, Thomas Paul Johnson critically analyzes Billy Graham’s theological viewpoint from many different angles. Johnson points out that Graham’s attitude in speaking about sin seemed to suggest a theological belief not of man’s depraved nature, but of sin as a wrong attitude towards God—a lack of love for him.[10] Still, Graham always maintained the doctrine of individual sin requiring individual salvation. 

 Another interesting point about Graham’s theology that Johnson draws out is his view of social responsibility. Specifically, Johnson contrasts evangelism and the call to proclaim the Gospel with the call to take social action in the world. Johnson quotes Graham in saying that his view of the Christian’s purpose from now until death or the Lord’s return could be summed up in the words proclamation and service.[11] Johnson argues that Billy’s desire to take social action actually outpaced the reach of his ministry, the BGEA.[12] This is an interesting point, which helps us to understand Graham’s view of evangelism. It seems that the older he got—which coincided with the more he traveled the world—the more he placed an urgency for social action while maintaining a commitment to inspire Christians towards world evangelism and fulfilling the Great Commission. In The Canvas Cathedral, Lewis A. Drummond writes that Billy Graham was able to keep a balance between fighting social injustice and staying focused on the message of the Gospel[13]. To Graham, especially later in life, it seems that helping those in need was part of evangelism. In an essay on the “tangible evangelism” of Billy Graham, later published in The Legacy of Billy Graham, it was later argued that Graham’s ministry had such a great impact—both evangelically and socially—because he himself lived the Gospel message with his life.[14]

 One of the hallmarks of Graham’s ministry was the simplicity with which he preached. Some view this as his greatest strength, while others seem to view it as his greatest weakness. Before examining both sides of this issue, it is important to understand that Graham was intentionally simple in his preaching style. He stated that he believed, “… preaching, to be successful, must be simple.”[15] It was not as if Graham were so theologically simple that he could not be more complex in the way he preached or presented ideas. Rather, he made a concerted effort to be simple and precise in the evangelistic message he shared with the world. Still, many people believe Graham was too simple in his presentation. Johnson tells of the criticism American philosopher Francis Shaeffer had of Graham, stating that he did not build a solid foundation for the ones he preached to, and instead started building on the “upper stories” by calling for a decision in an emotional moment.[16] While this is understandable, Johnson explains that Graham’s simple message was shaped by his believing that Scripture had real power and that the Holy Spirit could move in the hearts of those hearing the clearly-presented Gospel message, leading them to an instant conversion.[17]

Legacy and Major Contributions to the Church

 Billy Graham’s crusades were phenomenally successful. People flooded arenas, filled overflow areas, and streamed down aisles in response to his messages. While these sights might fill a one’s heart with joy, others have raised legitimate and natural questions as to the helpfulness of Graham’s crusades, his style of mass evangelism, and what impact churches saw after the crusade had moved on to the next city.

 It is important to note that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s own policy was to never hold a crusade in an area that did not already have a group of solid, healthy churches dedicated to preparing for the crusade and continuing the work of the crusade.[18] In his autobiography, Graham stated, “I did not simply want the audience to come from the churches. I wanted to leave something behind in the very churches themselves.”[19] Graham also said very plainly, “We don’t go anywhere unless we are invited by the local churches.”[20]

 Graham noted that the inspiration for this policy was a terrible crusade held in 1949, just months before the phenomenally successful Los Angeles crusade that same year. Graham did not feel that that crusade had enough backing from local churches in the area in which it was held.[21] Graham firmly believed that church support was the key to a successful crusade because he believed that prayer was essential to a successful crusade. The job of prayer that local churches and their members were assigned with before, during, and after every subsequent crusade became a vital part of the crusade’s method of operation.

 While most think of Billy Graham’s evangelistic messages from crusades, given to a diverse mix of lost sinners and heavily-churched Christians (and all in between), one of the most insightful sermons I have heard him give was a to a group of students at a Christian college, where all were presumed to already be believers. The message, given in 1952, was titled “Missionary Commitment”, and in it, Graham delivered one of the most convicting, Biblically-based sermons I have ever heard about the urgency Christians are to have. At times, the sermon was a scathing critique of the apathy found in churches then, and still found in churches now. Thus, it is important to consider Graham’s entire body of work in determining his persona and his message, rather than just what he presented at his crusades. Indeed, this was not a man of simplistic thinking.

 Another subject that has received a good deal of controversy and speculation was Graham’s involvement in politics. He was great friends with Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and was a personal counselor to many Presidents[22]. However, some have argued that Graham—for an evangelist known around the world—mixed too much politics with religion. In his book Billy Graham and the Rise of the Evangelical South, Steven P. Miller examines the tensions Graham experienced by championing the causes of both conservatism (morally and politically) and the Civil Rights Movement[23].

Conclusion

Ephesians 4:11-12 says that Christ gave, “…the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” (ESV). Truly, Billy Graham was a gift from Christ to the church—not to a specific church, but to the worldwide body of believers. Not only has he built up the body of Christ by adding to its number worldwide, but his crusades and sermons have also encouraged millions of those already saved and part of the church.

 Though Graham is not without the flaws of humanity, and though he is not without critics of his theology or his methodology, Graham was arguably one of the most influential church figures and influencers in the 20th Century, and certainly the most recognizable. He significantly touched not only the church’s culture, but the culture of the world around him. His commitment to preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ as clearly as he could to as many people as he could serves as a great example to the church of how to faithfully fulfill the Great Commission. This is not to say that each believer should hold nightly crusades at arenas worldwide; rather, believers should observe the life of Billy Graham and be inspired by his bold proclamation of the Gospel to anyone who would listen. One of my favorite stories about Billy Graham comes from John Stott, who spent a Christmas with Billy’s family at their mountain home in Montreat, NC. Stott observed how the Grahams, whose patriarch preached to the masses, each took a Christmas gift to their poor, “hillbilly” mountain neighbors[24]. Graham let the Gospel of Jesus take hold of him and permeate his life, and as a result, he proclaimed it—both to throngs of listeners in faraway places, and to his poor, easily-forgotten neighbors at home. His life mission should inspire the church to allow the Gospel to take root in our hearts that same way. By applying the Gospel to his life and ministry, Billy Graham was able to make an eternal impact on the church through beliefs, methodologies, and theology.

Works Cited

Barnhart, Joe E. 1972. The Billy Graham Religion. Philadelphia, United Church Press, 1972.

Drummond, Lewis A. 2003. The Canvas Cathedral. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003.

Brown, Harold O. J. “Standing against the World.” Francis A. Schaeffer: Portaits of the Man and His Work, ed. Lane T. Dennis : Westchester, IL : Crossway, 1986. 21.

Miller, Steven P. 2009. Billy Graham and the Rise of the Republican South. Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009.

Steer, Roger. Inside Story: The Life of John Stott. Nottingham: InterVarsity Press, 2009.

Graham, Billy. Just As I Am. San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins, 1997.

Graham, Billy. “Communicating the Gospel.” Lectures, Kansas City School of Evangelism, September 1967, 3.

Johnston, Thomas Paul. 2003. Examining Billy Graham’s Theology of Evangelism. Eugene, OR : Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003.

Long, Michael G. 2008. The Legacy of Billy Graham : Critical Reflections on America’s Greatest Evangelist. Louisville, KY : Westminster John Knox Press, 2008.

Pollock, John Charles. 1966. Billy Graham : The Authorised Biography. London : Hodder and Stoughton, 1966.

Mitchell, Curtis, and George M. Wilson. 1966. Billy Graham : The Making of a Crusader. Philadelphia : Chilton Books, 1966.

Wacker, Grant. 2014. America’s Pastor. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2014.

[1] Graham, Billy. Just As I Am (San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins, 1997), 14

[2] Ibid., 16

 

[3] Pollock, John Charles. 1966. Billy Graham : The Authorized Biography (London : Hodder and Stoughton, 1966), 29

[4] Ibid., 44

[5] Ibid., 45

[6] Ibid., 69

[7] Pollock, 77-78

[8] Barnhart, Joe E. 1972. The Billy Graham Religion. Philadelphia, United Church Press, 1972. 82-83

[9] Ibid., 103-104

[10] Johnson, 242-243

[11] Ibid., 147

[12] Ibid., 146

[13] Drummond, Lewis A. 2003. The Canvas Cathedral (Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003), 246-247

[14] Long, Michael G. 2008. The Legacy of Billy Graham : Critical Reflections on America’s Greatest Evangelist. 21.

[15] Graham, Billy. “Communicating the Gospel.” Lectures, Kansas City School of Evangelism, September 1967, 3.

 

[16] Brown, Harold O. J. “Standing against the World.” Francis A. Schaeffer: Portaits of the Man and His Word. 21.

[17] Johnson, 191

[18] Graham, Just As I Am, 145

[19] Ibid,. 145

[20] Mitchell, Curtis, and George M. Wilson. 1966. Billy Graham : The Making of a Crusader (Philadelphia : Chilton Books, 1966), 210

[21] Graham, Just As I Am, 143-144

[22] Wacker, Grant. 2014. America’s Pastor (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2014)

[23] Miller, Steven P. 2009. Billy Graham and the Rise of the Republican South.

[24] Steer, Roger. Inside Story: The Life of John Stott (Nottingham: InterVarsity Press, 2009)
 

The History And Background On Martha Graham

Martha Graham, the outstanding 20th century dancer, choreographer and teacher was born on May 11, 1894 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as one among the three daughters of George and Jane Beers Graham (Martha Graham, 2010). During her life time she spent most of her decisive years on the west coast region. Media have often regarded Martha Graham as one of the well recognized dancers and choreographers ever lived in America. Martha Graham’s father was a psychiatrist who concentrated much in his study and analysis of physical movement. He was a third generation American of Irish descent and her mother Jane Beers was one of the tenth generations of puritan Miles Standish. Dr. Graham and family had a high standard living because of the negotiable salary they saved from their works. The Graham family had a reputed position in the society on account of their high standard living and good educational background. From the very tender age itself, Martha had the support of her family in matters related to education and career opportunities. Though her family was ever ready to provide her excellent guidance in education, Martha preferred her career as a dancing performer-disapproving her parents wish. After the completion of her educational career from Cumnock School, a junior college, she enrolled in the Denishawn Studio, a dancing school operated by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn (1891-1972) (Martha Graham, 2010). Analysing the biographical note of Martha, it is identfiable that after getting enrolled in Denishawn Studio, she devoted herself entirely for dancing and choreography. She married dancer Erick Hawkins in 1948 but their marriage proved to be failure and divorced in 1954. Later, as we see, she became proficient in dancing and tried her best to attain the highest position in this field. She focused her attention essentially in performing arts and practiced much by contributing her own methods to dancing. She tried her preeminent to open the new way for modern dance.
Special attraction/feature of her dancing
Martha Graham was a wonderful performer and good choreographer in America. Her choreography is very surprising and amazing to viewers that she created new style of body movements and facial expressions. While observing Martha’s performances, it is well evident that she always attempted to expose real passion and human experiences which helped her to stand aloof from other performers of her time. Martha Graham’s dance has often been compared to Picasso’s painting and Stravinsky’s music, and so on. One may not feel it as an exaggeration to reveal that her choreography and dance performances are incredibly attractive and stunning. Her contributions have transformed to different art forms which exerted notable influence in changing the old method of dancing. Martha’s innovative style of dancing has paved the way for expanding the style of word around dancing. She expressed herself very liberally and truthfully in almost all her dance performances. It was the sincere attempt from her part to develop dancing profession resulted for the establishment of Martha Graham Dance Company in 1926 (Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance, 2006). As her profession was dancing, she could compose many dance programs. Her dance company offers support to the entire American dance students by including other brilliant dance teachers also in her dance troupe. Freedman (1998) rightly enlists Graham’s performance when he writes, “Graham invented a revolutionary new language of dance, an original way of moving that she use to reveal the joy, passions, and sorrows common to all human experience. She had a genius for connecting movement with emotion.”

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Martha Graham is not only a resourceful dancer but also an excellent choreographer. Graham created new trends and attractive style for dancing by reminding the fact that dancing has significant role in society as a pure method of entertainment. Dance is a one of the important and transitory forms of expression. Martha Graham attempted to convey her ideas so naturally and translated these ideas to expression with facial and body movements. Graham strongly believed that body and facial expressions must be there in an excellent dance. Graham controlled her body movements and facial expressions with music. These movements attracted the attention of many modern observers and as such, they accepted this new style and recognized this performance as a modern dance. A good dance performer should be capable of creating different types expressions on his/her face. The idea produced by the dancing body can include physical identity and physical representations of thoughts. So Martha Graham’s new style of dancing can be considered as a representation and result of her thoughts. The performer and choreographer Martha Graham produced different gestures images, stances and poses. She had also included the physical representation of the feelings, moods and impulses. These styles or movements attracted a great deal of audience.
Martha’s Dance is a real representation of her personality- expression, and it conveyed different messages. Majority of the modern and traditional dancing forms tell a story which clearly coveyed the observer a message. Choreographer Martha Graham expressed her ideas in different ways and in different style. Thus one can infer that most of her performances were self expressive and self explanatory.
During her life span, Graham had composed and presented a large number of dance programs. Her 180 dancing performances in America within the period of fifty years acknowledge this fact. She had won many awards and achievements. Some of them include the Kennedy Center Honors in 1978, the French Legion of Honor in 1984 and presidential Medal of Freedom in 1976. She could maintain her status as a good dancer and choreographer till the end of her life. Her last dance performance, Maple Leaf Rag presented in 1990, a year before her death, was also a grant success. It is such grant performances that earned her the name, ’20th century revolutionary artist’. She has exerted a significant influence in relieving the dance form from the traditional methods or concepts, presented with comparatively dawdling movements. 20th century dance forms are fast and it also tells the theoretical form of the story instead of merely retelling a story.
Contribution to dancing
Graham had given remarkable contribution to dancing field by developing distinctive style of training. She founded Martha Graham Dance Company, one of the oldest modern dance groups in America, which provides the best training for new generation dancers and choreographers. Martha Graham’s new techniques and modern methods are really helpful to create classical ballet in the world. She avoided traditional and old methods, techniques and steps of classical ballet. Then her dancing form of classical ballet includes natural motion and music. She established different type style of dancing such as mobile scenery, symbolic props, and etc. Vision of the Apocalypse is the first large group piece of Martha Graham and it was performed in 1929. Other remarkable contributions are Dance Repertory Theater in New York in 1930 and Bennington School of Arts in Vermont, and so on. Her students and her co-worker helped to spread her ideas and style in the rest of the world.
What was her inspiration?
Though there are different things that attracted Graham to dancing, the most important among them were the classical mythologies she read. Other inspirations are the American past, biblical stories, historical figures, contemporary social problems, poems, stories, and so on. These motivations really helped her to develop new ideas and thoughts. These inspirations facilitate to found new music and gradually she won in her attempts to bring out new movements to express her own ideas.