Significant in Silence: Wheat Street Female Quartet

By: Demi Browder

Who is Wheat Street?

The Wheat Street Female Quartet is an all female group that emerged in Atlanta, Georgia in the 1920’s. You may wonder who are they? Where did they come from? I’ve never heard of an all women’s quartet group back then? Well, all those questions are common thoughts because the Wheat Street Quartet has barely any documentation of their existence except for the eight songs they recorded. The Wheat Street Quartet recorded four songs at Columbia and four songs at OKeh, yet not one name of a member in the group was stated or are there any articles with background information on the group. The group incorporated negro spirituals in some of their recordings in songs, “Go Down Moses,” “Wheel in a Wheel,” and others. This quartet contained enough talent and impact to record songs and be shared with an audience, but not given the respect and recognition to be introduced and glorified. If only people knew about the Wheat Street Female Quartet, maybe other women in the music industry would have been confident to take over the male-dominated genre or simply just give all women the reassurance that they are just as important and talented if not more than a man. 

Jubilee Quartets in America

The Jubilee Quartet genre consists of three eras. The Jubilee era which occurred from 1880-1929, the transitional period from 1930-1945, and the gospel period from 1946-1969. The Jubilee era consisted of: university and minstrel jubilee quartets, community based jubilee quartets, community based jubilee quartets, shape-note/sacred harp quartets, and barbershop community quartets. The transitional era incorporated cultures of migration north, urbanization, black churches, touring, and song battles. While the gospel era incorporated improvisation and enhanced in instruments. The Jubilee Quartets consisted of about four to six members all being assigned a position; first tenor, second tenor, baritone, and low bass. This specific genre was able to bridge both black and white musical applications while incorporating negro spirituals and white perspective of folk. Jubilee quartets represented mostly men with few female voices highlighted along the years, which is evident through high recognition and praise of men quartets, and lack of acknowledgement to women in that industry like the Wheat Street Female Quartet. 

The Struggles of Success in A Male- Dominated World

My perspective on this genre was just another item added to my list dealing with the lack of recognition in women. Women have it hard and to have a talent that you want to share with the world but it’s looked at as “that’s really good for a woman,” or “oh wow what a voice for a black woman,” is not compliment or sense of recognition. Most of the successors in this genre were black men for example the Dixie Hummingbirds, the Five Blind Boys, the Dinwiddie Colored Quartet, and the Golden Gate Quartet. But when it solely comes down to all women recognition and success in this genre it is little to none. This is seen in other genres as well, but more importantly seen in other topics of conversation. Women having been battling this ongoing male- dominated world in every category since the beginning of time. But, when is it going to be an even playing field? When is talent going to be seen as only talent and not gender or race? As a black woman I don’t have an answer to those questions, but I have hope that I will be apart of the change. As well as I am grateful for groups of women like the Wheat Street Female Quartet for sacrificing themselves for me to be where I am today. But, I myself want to be a part of the next sacrifice so other young women after me can be viewed in this world how they see themselves; an individual with a talent, a purpose, and mindset to reach infinite success regardless of what box they check on paper.

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