Inspired by your reading from WEB Du Bois, we’ve posted the oldest existing recording by the Fisk Jubilee Singers. This comes from 1909, just six years after the publication of The Souls of Black Folk, in which Du Bois celebrated these artists for having “sang the slave songs so deeply into the world’s heart that it can never wholly forget them again.”

Du Bois devotes a separate chapter of his book to the “Sorrow Songs” (from which his above terms of praise are quoted); here’s a paragraph from that chapter on the formation and post-Civil War career of the Fisk Jubilee Singers:

There was once a blacksmith’s son born at Cadiz, New York, who in the changes of time taught school in Ohio and helped defend Cincinnati from Kirby Smith. Then he fought at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg and finally served in the Freedman’s Bureau at Nashville. Here he formed a Sunday-school class of black children in 1866, and sang with them and taught them to sing. And then they taught him to sing, and when once the glory of the Jubilee songs passed into the soul of George L. White, he knew his life-work was to let those Negroes sing to the world as they had sung to him. So in 1871 the pilgrimage of the Fisk Jubilee Singers began. North to Cincinnati they rode,—four half-clothed black boys and five girl-women,—led by a man with a cause and a purpose. They stopped at Wilberforce, the oldest of Negro schools, where a black bishop blessed them. Then they went, fighting cold and starvation, shut out of hotels, and cheerfully sneered at, ever northward; and ever the magic of their song kept thrilling hearts, until a burst of applause in the Congregational Council at Oberlin revealed them to the world. They came to New York and Henry Ward Beecher dared to welcome them, even though the metropolitan dailies sneered at his “Nigger Minstrels.” So their songs conquered till they sang across the land and across the sea, before Queen and Kaiser, in Scotland and Ireland, Holland and Switzerland. Seven years they sang, and brought back a hundred and fifty thousand dollars to found Fisk University.

Thursday afternoon, we’ll spend a little time discussing / synthesizing ideas from your Unit 4 reading, look over a handout on “kinds” of research-based essay structure, look at annotated bibliography entries, and do workshops on evolving thesis statements and paragraph complexity that will help get  you started on the research paper!

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