The Hampton Singers
The Hampton singers were formed in 1873 in Hampton, Virginia, in order to raise money for what is now Hampton University.
The choir consisted of four formerly enslaved Africans, and they performed acapella negro spirituals and plantation songs.
One of their most memorable performances was at Princeton University, where the same audience who had responded negatively to the Jubilee Singers, was “unusually attentive and responsive” to the Hampton singers. The performers were complimented as being “exceedingly” earnest. Performing at a school like Princeton may have been even more difficult than originally expected, as even though the reviews of the singers were good, all of the documentation still referred to them as slaves, not freed people. This shows some of the anti-black sentiment that these schools held. Some documents show that the Hampton singers even performed at other Ivy League school such as Harvard and Yale.
One of the songs that they sang during this performance was “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”, which centers on the idea that Jesus is the only one that knows the atrocities that they as slaves had been through and watched others go through as well.
The group was so successful in contributing to the school’s endowment, providing enough money for the school to build Virignia-Cleveland Hall on campus. They actually provided a majority of the funding in the school’s early days. From their performances all across the country the group was able to raise more than $300,000 that went to the foundation of Hampton University.
The group is now known as the Hampton University Concert Choir and they have continued to tour and perform. They are currently directed by Omar Dickinson and he has been at Hampton University since 2012.