Can Jubileeve It?


Jubliee quartets are an important part of African-American music because they broke barriers and created space for African-American artists to compete with their white counterparts.


A jubilee quartet is a group of four singers that create arrangements for negro spirituals. The first jubilee quartet was the Tuskegee Quartet. Ella Sheppard, Thomas Rutling, Maggie Porter, and Benjamin Holmes—all of which were either formerly enslaved or had formerly enslaved parents. Together they formed the Tuskegee Quartets in 1871, and their first task was to raise money at fundraisers for Tuskegee University. 

Quartets are a unique musical group. They use the technical aspect of call and response, acapella, and four-part harmonies. The quartets used their voices as “instruments” because, at the time, Black Americans had little to no access to musical instruments. The four-part harmonies are split up into the first tenor, the second tenor, the bass, and the baritone, which was the lead.

Jubilee Quartets were one of the first musical groups that recognized Black people as artists and musicians. Jubilee Quartets combined aspects of their present time with aspects of the prior time. They incorporated negro spirituals in their music and put a modern twist on it that made it popular again. Jubilee Quartets soon were paid to tour and broadcast on radios around the country touring. The jubilee quartets ended up being successful. Today, gospel music is inspired by jubilee quartets. One could argue that gospel music is a remix of jubilee quartets because the gospel has musical and vocal instruments.


Jubilee quartets changed the trajectory of African-Americans in music. Their emergence into American music allowed more Black artists to be recognized and respected in a white-dominated industry.

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