Jubilee Quartets and the Legacy of HBCUs

What are Jubilee Quartets?


Jubilee Quartets were musical groups comprised of African Americans that sang religious music. As the name implies, the quartets were comprised of groups of four members. Historically, there were three main periods including the Jubilee period from 1880-1929, the transitional period from 1930-1945, and the gospel period from 1946-1969. The name derives from the Fisk Jubilee Singers, which was a group of singers at Fisk University organized in 1871. They were formed by George White to sing Negro Spirituals. The members of the original Fisk Jubilee Quartet were Alfred G. King as first bass, James A. Myers as second tenor, Noah W. Ryder as second bass, and John W. Work as first tenor.

Jubilee Quartets and HBCU History


HBCUs, Historically Black colleges and universities, have a rich history with the formation of musical groups that have take inspiration from the original Jubilee Quartet. These ensembles display choral excellence and preserve the history of African American slaves. There are several examples that maintain that strong legacy until this day, including the Spelman College Glee Club. Spelman’s Glee Club is currently led by Dr. Kevin Johnson, an Associate Professor of music at Spelman College, and was formally founded in 1924. The Glee Club has performed internationally at famed performance venues around the world, including Brazil, Italy, and Canada. Spelman College is among other excellent HBCUs, such as Morehouse College, Hampton University, and Fisk University, that uses their excellent choral ensembles to display and preserve the rich history of Jubilee Quartets, and thus African American cultural music. The excellent performances by these HBCUs perpetuates the importance of HBCUs and their place in the history of higher learning in America.


Important Jubilee Quartet Groups/Musicians


Wheat Street Female Quartet- first all female Jubilee Quartet


Golden Gate Quartet


Five Blind Boys


Soul Stirrers


Google Arts & Culture. 2021. Jubilee quartet – Google Arts & Culture. [online] Available at: <https://artsandculture.google.com/entity/jubilee-quartet/m04ngf_?hl=en> [Accessed 4 May 2021].

Spelman.edu. 2021. Glee Club History | Spelman College. [online] Available at: <https://www.spelman.edu/academics/majors-and-programs/music/ensembles/glee-club/history> [Accessed 4 May 2021].

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