The Fisk Jubilee Singers were an African American group formed in 1871 by Fisk University Singers. They were comprised of multiple students and were not a quartet. They sang a lot of spirituals in hopes of raising money for the college.
Members of the Fisk Jubilee
Who led the Group?
The group consisted of 12 people. Issa Dickerson, Ben Holmes, Greene Evans, Thomas Rutling, Ella Sheppard, Maggie Porter, Minnie Tate, Jennie Jackson, Eliza Walker, 2 quartets and a pianist. They originally sang Negro Spirituals but didn’t know that was what it was called until later.
Ella Sheppard was a soprano, composer, pianist, and arranger of Negro Spirituals. She was the original leader of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. There’s a music school in Chicago named after her.
The Impact and Legacy of the Jubilee Singers
The Fisk Jubilee group gave more to Fisk University’s name. The songs the group sang were used on slave plantations as escapes so they can sing whatever they want and let their emotions run free. Later on, what they sang was recognized as Negro Spirituals. They performed all over the world. The First Fisk Jubilee Singers proved that Black people could do more and be more while leaving a new genre. They gave hope to the Black community. The songs they sung were instrumental in the Black community and its existence. Most know the significance of these spirituals. These songs have been sung in my church for years. In my Catholic church, these spirituals are sung all the time. They recognize the significance and want the parishioners to understand as well. The Fisk Jubilee started something that is known even up to my time. The recognition they got allowed them to get a school building, Jubilee Hall. This is now a national landmark. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, one of my favorite and most sentimental gained a lot of traction when the group performed it in 1909.
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