1860-1880 The Beginning

  • Major Genres of this time period include Negro Spirituals, Folk Music, Jubilee Quartets,  and the beginning of Gospel
  • Folk music has been around since the beginning of slavery. Folk music developed in tandem with vernacular dance of the Americas. 
  • On the concert stage/ during Jubilee singer era you had singers such as Emma Louise Hyers, Anna Madah, Nellie Brown Mitchell, Sissieretta Jones, and Flora Batson. Of course the Fisk Jubilee Singers were a cornerstone of Black music during this era, and influenced a lot of the artists we’ll go on to mention. 
  • After jubilee quartets, Ragtime music began to erupt. Popular musicians included Scott Joplin, famous composer of the “Maple Leaf Rag”, as well as Thomas Turpin, Eubie Blake, Joe Jordan and James Scott. 
  • Blackface minstrelsy was also majorly popular during this time and influenced the sound and feel of ragtime music. Performers and composers such as Sam Lucas, Ernest Hogan and Billy Kersands were icons in this field.
  • Gospel music got it’s start in the late 1860’s and was born from Negro Spiruals, as well as out of Pentecostal and Holiness denominations in poor neighborhoods. 
  • Throughout this time period, people are still dressing in the victorian fashion brought back from Europe. This meant that women wore large, long skirts that covered the ankle, depending on the status of each woman, she might also use a large hoop skirt. Black women enslaved on plantations could also have an apron or front smock used to wipe your hands or face. Men wore dress pants, collared tunics, and oftentimes suspenders. 
  • The instruments found in each time period are divided below:

Folk Music; Djembe, The Kora, The banjo, the spoons, the washboard, the jug, and of course the body was also used an instrument for clapping, stomping and tapping. 

Negro Spirituals often used just the voice, and the sound of nearby instruments. Some negro spituals were sung while working so you might hear the sounds of cotton rustling, hoes hitting the ground or someone nearby whistling along. It was all impromptu and relied on the individual’s environment

Jubilee Quartet; The quartet usually included 4 main roles; a high tenor, second tenor, baritone ( who sang solo) and bass. A bass singers job was to keep that walking beat synonymous with The Jubilee quartet era of (1880-1929).

It’s important to remember that this era is just out of emancipation, which happened in 1863. However as we know true emancipation didn’t happen until June 19th, 1865 which we celebrate as Juneteenth. We are in the reconstruction era, so this is the beginning of laws that prohibit Blackness and would predate Jim Crow Laws. Crimes that targeted Black people included loitering, being in the wrong area, having your hair uncovered as a Black woman and more. These harsh restrictions on Black people’s newfound freedom made music and dance all the more important. Black people were constantly being policed and watched and folk music and dance were one of the only opportunities to embrace their African heritage. Work songs were also very popular as many free people worked their 40 acres, or sharecropped for others.

Video Links:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_nBSSXiG9w
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUvBGZnL9rE
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfdmvX5wC4E
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imCNMqXk_u4
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyhQYOxTHaw
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHBqcJy2m2c
  7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRCSeb-3smo
  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4G5KtQynWvc&list=PLeSjQNUK_kinZyzXeZhdzcdeaK4YxYNsX&index=4
  9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_euSS86dvE
  10. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zeshN_ummU
  11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrN-X1PAZss
  12. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vesfewYrPmw&list=PLQ-mjOdps9nlKwZC2NGmM71bo92UTZ2pT&index=3

Folk Music was music born out of slavery, so most of the Southeast contributed heavily to created what we know as Folk music today. Depending on the era, and region folk music reflected the nuances found in each region. If you’re singing about what you know and what you see, that changes from place to place. Different states produced different crops or had different methods for producing goods. 

Jubilee Quartet was born out of Fisk University’s Jubilee singers. Their acapella group was born out of Nashville, Tennessee and it became a launching ground for a whole new era of music.

Negro Spirituals are also a music style born out of slavery that continued to evolve throughout emancipation and the Jim Crow era.

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