The choir Wings Over Jordan made numerous contributions to choral music using the spirituals. The transmission of spirituals that began within the institution of slavery were adapted for demonstrations and marches during the Civil Rights Movement. The songs were created to illuminate political, social and cultural environmental messages. The recognition of this choir resulted in music recordings, USO tours during World War II, as well as other international performances. The choir performed weekly on the “Negro Hour” over radio station WGAR in Cleveland, Ohio. Check out this Master’s Thesis!
The profound and inspiring story of students who battled prejudice and oppression to sing their way into the nation’s heart.
On November 16, 1871, a group of unknown singers — all but two of them former slaves and many of them still in their teens — arrived at Oberlin College in Ohio to perform before a national convention of influential ministers. After a few standard ballads, the chorus began to sing spirituals — “Steal Away” and other songs” associated with slavery and the dark past, sacred to our parents,” as soprano Ella Sheppard recalled. It was one of the first public performances of the secret music African Americans had sung in fields and behind closed doors. More
Born in Erie on Dec. 2, 1866, Burleigh learned spirituals as a child from his grandfather, Hamilton Waters, a former slave who worked as a lamplighter in Erie.
Burleigh later earned international acclaim as a renowned African-American classical composer, singer, arranger and music editor.
An accomplished baritone, Burleigh, who died in 1949 at age 82, played a significant role in developing American art songs. He composed more than 200 works in that genre and was the first African-American composer acclaimed for his adaptations of African-American spirituals. More
Morgan State University Choir’s director Eric Conway chooses some of the best spirituals written for full SATB choir. more
Florence Price (1887-1953) – Little Rock-born composer, educator, pianist and subject of the film “The Caged Bird” – was denied membership in the Arkansas State Music Teachers Association sometime between 1917 and 1927, and because she was African American. A hundred years later, the national branch of that same organization is naming Price as a Foundation Fellow, as Angelita Faller’s release from UA Little Rock yesterday details.
“An excerpt from Price’s biography in the Encyclopedia of Arkansascontextualizes the denial within Price’s life and her subsequent departure from Arkansas. Read more
With the help of AFC archivists, Stephen Winick and John Fenn reveal the history of a great work of African American folk creativity: the spiritual “Kumbaya” or “Come By Here.” You’ll hear how it was collected from oral tradition in Georgia and North Carolina in the 1920s, and hear it become the first State Historical Song of Georgia on the floor of the Georgia State Senate. You’ll find out how the words “come by here,” sung in a regional dialect, came to be spelled “Kumbaya” around the world. Listen here
In his 1935 interview with Alan Lomax and Zora Neale Hurston, Wallace Quarterman, a ninety-one-year-old formerly enslaved man, shared a spiritual that expressed the discursive realities of enslavement. Legally denied literacy, African Americans developed a dynamic oral discourse through both slave songs and the performance of
New book by Sandra Jean Graham (University of Illinois Press, 2018)
Spirituals performed by jubilee troupes became a sensation in post-Civil War America. First brought to the stage by choral ensembles like the Fisk Jubilee Singers, spirituals anchored a wide range of late nineteenth-century entertainments, including minstrelsy, variety, and plays by both black and white companies. In the first book-length treatment of postbellum spirituals in theatrical entertainments, Sandra Jean Graham mines a trove of resources to chart the spiritual’s journey from the private lives of slaves to the concert stage. Graham navigates the conflicting agendas of those who, in adapting spirituals for their own ends, sold conceptions of racial identity to their patrons. In so doing they lay the foundation for a black entertainment industry whose artistic, financial, and cultural practices extended into the twentieth century. A companion website contains jubilee troupe personnel, recordings, and profiles of 85 jubilee groups. Please go to: http://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/graham/spirituals/
Deacon James Garfield Smalls is 98, but he’s still got a boombox inside that rumbles out spirituals he learned from his great-grandfather on St. Helena Island.
Spirituals are the biblical songs of hope that the enslaved sang, now considered the roots of jazz and blues and all of American music.
Smalls will be honored by the S.C. Arts Commission, the governor and state legislature at the State House in Columbia this Wednesday. He will be cited as one the most important active Gullah singers and cultural ambassadors. more
We chant it with locked arms and closed eyes, at campfires, in protest lines and from the pews at church, but the truth is, many of us have no clue what the lyrics mean or exactly where they come from.
Kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya. Kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya.
Thanks to research and lobbying by residents of a coastal community descended from slaves, the origins and meaning of “Kumbaya” have been recognized in Congress, raising hopes that a fading culture might get a boost. The song may be sung more often than usual this month, especially in the part of Georgia where its soulful lyrics are said to have originated almost a century ago. more