Negro Spirituals’ Influence at Oakwood University

Negro Spirituals have the ability to provide exposure for collegiate choirs across the world celebrating black culture through our stories and joy in the most radical of times. 

The Aeolians of Oakwood University is one of many collegiate choirs that have flourished through the performance of classical song selections as well as negro spirituals. The choir was first organized in 1946 by Dr. Eva B. Dykes. 

The Aeolians of Oakwood University

Like many notable choirs, The Aeolians have traveled both nationally and internationally performing the music inspiring both the minds of both young and old audience members. They have received the honor of performing at the Kennedy Center as well as Romania, Great Britain and Warsaw, Poland. The Aeolian concerts present a repertoire of choral music which ranges from the Baroque era to the twenty-first century. The Aeolian moreover are an authoritative exponent of Negro spirituals and Work songs which express the yearnings of their forefathers to be free. In 1974 The Aeolians released an album of Negro Spirituals titled “Oh Freedom” featuring ‘I’ve Been Buked’.

‘I’ve Been Buked’ presented by The Aeolians


The choir is currently led by Jason Max Ferdinand as the Director of Choral Activities at Oakwood University. As the chorus travels they perform in tuxedos and floor length black dresses and pearls. This traditional formal wear of African American choirs went against the notion that musicians, artists, and overall black people; being seen as less than and not worthy of. Their appearance and difficult choral repertoire received the attention of predominately white institutions as well produced publicity for the choirs like the Fisk University Jubilee Singers, The A Capella Choir of Wiley College, and Winston-Salem State University Choir.

The Aeolians’ most recent accomplishment include gold medals in both the “Spirituals” and “Musica Contemporanea” categories at The 2018 World Choir Games in South Africa. 

Like Alan Locke mentions, spirituals are "... the product of the cultural ties that bind" giving every collegiate choir a drive to spread the stories of anguish through the joy of our current generations and future changemakers to come.

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