Jubilee Quartets – Taking the Negro Spiritual Global


The Jubilee Quartet, one of the earliest forms of black group singing became a pioneer to many of the songs we sing and Enjoy today.



Dating back to 1871, Black Americans emerged with a new musical style coined as the Jubilee Quartets. Fisk University, a Historically Black University decided to “up” the Negro Spiritual, by joining 4 men of different voice ranges to add a more up-tempo beat to the traditionally sorrowful songs. These young men would travel to other HBCU’s such as Tuskegee Institute and Hampton Institute to compete against one another.


Jubilee remained a very spiritual form of singing, some variations included jazzier beats, scat singing, sound effects, harmonizing, and the influences of Western Music of vibrato and theatrics.Through the context of African American music, a quartet was defined as a vocal ensemble that consisted of a minimum of four voices and a max of six voices singing a four-part harmony with arrangements in either an acappella style or with limited instrumentation

Social Implications

Jubilees began to gain momentum and found its way out of the church  As its popularity surpassed the church, Jubilee music began to make a global impact even during a time when black folks were fresh out of slavery. Gaining radio play the genre of music became popular not only in the south but the rest of the world. Socially, jubilee remained a very spiritual form of singing, some variations included jazzier beats, scat singing, sound effects until the Golden Gate Quartet became globally acknowledge and performed music that became informational of what was happening in the time period. Performing in social spaces that allowed for black and white citizens to be in the same spaces.


Many of the groups began to make money for there contributions to the music scene but of course, that did not mean that white compensation was absent. Groups like the Golden Gate Quartet began to make headway in the entertainment business and made appearances in Elvis movies. White artists began requesting the appearance of these jubilee quartets without really understanding the significance of the music they were signing. Often times these dongs were re-done and re-recorded by white artists and handled as the original song of that artist, leaving the black groups unaccredited. Yes, the music had become commercialized but it was still rooted in religious spirituals.

Influences of Future Genres 

The genre branched off into several different types of quartets; Barbershop Quartets, Shape Note, and Minstrel Jubilee Quartets the popularity of the genre also presented other notable groups such as the Dixie Humming Birds, Mills Brothers, and the Happyland Jubilee Singers. As seen today, the influences of Jubilee Quartet has evaded R and B. Minus the spirituality man of the groups we enjoy listening to today include groups of four to five men singing and harmonizing.

Conclusionary Opinions 

I enjoy the genre, and I appreciate the impact the genre has made. Taking a music style and launching it to the next level seems like the entire essence of being black. However, I am as always, disappointed when the context is taken out of black sorrow and pain and commercialized for the benefit of white people, without any credit given to its origins.



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