The Fisk Jubilee Singers are a influential musical group that has impacted the way we view Negro Spiritual music to this day. Founded in 1871 at Fisk university in Nashville, Tennessee the groups sole purpose was to raise money for the school. After facing financial crisis George L. White, the Fisk treasurer brought together nine chorus members from the school to save the school.
When the group went on tour they immediately received much attention and gained a high reputation. Initially the toured up north but then began an international tour to Europe. The group was able to raise $20,000 for they institution and saved Fisk out of their financial troubles. Without the Fisk Jubilee Singers Fisk may have shut down and Negro Spiritual would not be what we know.
Negro Spiritual is a form of religious music created by African Americans used as a revival during the 18th century. During slavery, slaves were not allowed to meet in large gatherings so they have secret worship sessions or invisible church. During these church sessions slaves would sing a variety of Negro spiritual songs. Some types would be call-and-response; where a leader would sing one line and the other singers would repeat that line or ring shout; where singers would use hand clapping and other percussions while other participants danced in a counterclockwise circle. Negro spiritual was a way for slaves to cope with their current situation. During slavery, slaves were taken of everything; their families, home and language, however whites could not take their music or faith.
Where are we now in 2020?
Negro Spiritual has made an impact on the way we listen to Gospel today. When slaves created negro spiritual they sung songs from the heart and shared their stories. It was a way for them to elaborate their feelings and pray to God for better days. The gospel we hear today features the same techniques of artist sharing their stories and coming together to praise God. We see artist suck as Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond and Marvin Sapp sing by themselves or with a choir using call-and-response or ring shout. In the last several years, Fisk has brought back the Jubilee Singers and the group appeared in a documentary. They do many public appearances and have recorded a CD of traditional spirituals in the style of the original group. “I do not know when anything has so moved me as did the plaintive melodies of the Jubilee Singers.” – Mark Twain