The Fisk Jubilee Singers

Immediately following the end of the Civil War, some very determined former slaves made up their minds to form the very first University specifically for black Americans. Fisk University was founded in 1866 in Nashville, Tennessee and it still stands today. While “Reconstruction” was meant to come to the South, the university itself was soon starving for funds. An entrepreneurial Professor George L. White, the treasurer of the University, felt the solution could be in forming a nine-member vocal ensemble. The idea was to attract crowds and sing the slaves songs that many of them knew from actually having been slaves. This would raise badly needed funds for the school. They left for their first tour on October 6, 1871. The troupe worked to the point of exhaustion. Reaching Columbus Ohio, Professor White anointed the players, “The Jubilee Singers”. Presumably a reference to the day of grace described in the Book of Leviticus, when all slaves were released from bondage, and all lands returned to their original owners. The group had dozens of incarnations and toured right around the globe. They were known to be a favoured by Queen Victoria and the Crown Prince of Prussia.

In 1884, the group under the leadership of Frederick Loudin, began a six-year world tour. This included an Australian leg. Apart from the major performance houses in Sydney, Ballarat and Melbourne, it also included the small river port town of Echuca. While there, Frederick Loudin met Daniel Matthews, who persuaded the musicians that they should perform to the Aboriginal community at Maloga.

News report about the Fisk Jubilee Singers

Echuca. (1886, August 30). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 7. Retrieved February 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page276576

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