Honorary Hidden Treasure: Wheat Street Female Quartet
By: Alexia Khalil

The Wheat Street Female Quartet

The Wheat Street Female Quartet originated in Atlanta, Georgia in the early 1900’s, this all female group is not one of those many have heard of or can easily recall. This is not a coincidence in that the identities of the individual group members has never been documented. Due to the lack of documentation of recorded history of the group, personally and professionally, their legacy only leaves us with eight heartwarming tracks. Four of  these records were produced at Columbia, while others at OKeh. The group implemented several different genres within their music, one of them being negro spirituals. Records like “Wheel in a Wheel,” and “Go Down Moses,” and great examples. It is unfortunate that this infamous all female quartet never got the opportunity to receive their flowers while they were alive. The greatest tragedy is that they never were given their chance to tell their story in order to inspire black female artists coming up in a male dominant industry. 

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Jubilee Quartets

Jubilee Quartet as a genre mostly highlighted men and neglected female artists. The Wheat Street Female Quartet is a great example of women in the music industry not receiving half as much of recognition, or respect for their talent. Nonetheless, this was not uncommon for this time period. The Jubilee Quartet has three eras, jubilee, transitional, and the gospel era. The quartets contained between four to six singers, including a first tenor, second tenor, baritone, and low bass. Incorporating elements from negro spirituals and white washed folk music, this genre fused black and white musical flows. With that, each era was withheld  its own individual rhythmic  contribution.

 

  • Jubilee era(1880-1929): university and minstrel quartets, community based quartets, barbershop community quartets, and sacred harp quartets.

  • Transitional era(1930-1945): migration to the north, touring, black church homes, urbanization, and song battles.

  • Gospel era(1946-1969): enhanced instruments and improvisation introduced.

Women in a Male-Dominatesd Industry

It is important to realize and recognize the consistent pattern within the music industry that has discredited female artists for centuries. Women are continuously undervalued and unappreciated. We don’t even have a full album from the Wheat Street Female Quartet, or even know their names. Meanwhile, the successors in this genre were deemed as men in jubilee quartets like the Dixie Hummingbirds, the Golden Gate Quartet, he Five Blind Boys, and the Diniwiddie Colored Quartet. Unfortunately women were not at the forefront of this musical movement, although the talent was evident.  

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