Monday, February 28, 2011

Fisk Jubilee Singers: The legacy

In 1875 the singers went on tour again, repeating the schedule of starting in the Northern United States and then traveling to the British Isles.  This was also the ten-year anniversary of the university, and the year of its first graduating class.  Unlike traditional universities, Fisk students sometimes entered without any education at all.  The first graduating class therefore included students who had been prevented by law from learning to read as children, and had to start from the very beginning.

The singers' previous trip was successful in raising donations for the school, but also in uplifting the race.  These descendents of people who had crossed the Atlantic in shackles now traveled to Europe aboard a luxury steamer, with a discounted rate due to their reputation.

Again, they performed at religious services and concerts in London, attracting audiences as large as 10,000.  On a smaller scale, they also reached out to Sunday School children.  Another trip to Scotland was equally sucessful, with over 5,000 at one event.  By now their repertoire was more well known, and they received requests for specific songs, such as Steal Away and I've been Redeemed (below).  They returned from their second trip with £10,000 in donations for Fisk.

Their success inspired other Reconstruction era colleges for freed slaves to follow suit, and many colleges continue the tradition of an annual tour, including the Fisk Jubilee Singers.

For more on the history and impact of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, read Tell Them We Are Singing for Jesus: The Original Fisk Jubilee Singers and Christian Reconstruction, 1871 - 1878.

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