The Fisk Jubilee Singers was the first group of African-American musicians to attain international recognition and fame, and along the way, finance their historically black college (Fisk University in Nashville, TN). The singers introduced “slave songs” to the world, and quite possibly preserved this musical art form from extinction.
In 1871, the nine original Jubilee Singers ensemble toured the United States and Europe. Two years later, the group grew to eleven members, who expanded the second European tour. Funds raised by the Jubilee Singers during their international concerts were used to construct the school’s first permanent building, Jubilee Hall. Jubilee Hall, one of the oldest structures in use at Fisk University, is designated as a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. This beautiful Victorian Gothic building houses a ceiling-to-floor portrait of the original Jubilee Singers, commissioned by Queen Victoria of England as a gift to Fisk University.
For those [hopefully few] of you who have never heard of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, enjoy this sampling of their recordings — In Bright Mansions.
(Commentary: I once had the immense honor of visiting Fisk University’s Jubilee Hall. I had been invited to participate in a business panel that also included Jerry of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. I sat there with history surrounding me, looking at the old and beautiful portrait commissioned by a queen, remembering the stories about Fisk University I heard as a child from my parents and its alumni, and silently thinking about the Fisk Jubilee Singers, especially those first brave few who firmly established themselves and Fisk University as ambassadors and a bastion of African-American culture, respectively. And for that, I express my humble thanks to the Fisk Jubilee Singers. I may well never have had many opportunities afforded me had they not first helped to enlighten closed minds and open doors previously closed to American blacks. May their righteous voices forever soar to the heavens.)