Mar 30, 2017 - Sale 2441

Sale 2441 - Lot 431

Estimate: $ 6,000 - $ 9,000
WITH A GROUP PHOTO & SIGNED BY ALL MEMBERS (MUSIC.) [MARSH, J. B. T.]. The Story of the Jubilee Singers with their Songs. Inserted albumen photographic frontispiece of the singers. 231 pages, of which 106 are, printed music from the singer's repertoire. 8vo, original gilt-pictorial deep green morocco, with a picture of the main building at Fisk on the upper cover; all edges gilt; spine slightly faded; extremities very lightly rubbed; a few light stains to pages 114 to 118, otherwise a near fine copy. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1875

Additional Details

second edition, signed by the entire troupe on a special inserted page preceding the first page of text. At the top of the signature page, there is the following notation: 'The Jubilee Singers (Matt 25.40)' a reference to Matthew, chapter 25, line 40:  'The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'' The Jubilee Singers were the brainchild of George White, Fisk's treasurer and music director, a white northern missionary. The five-year-old Institute was struggling to keep their doors open, so White put together a nine-member troupe drawn from the students consisting of two quartets and a pianist. The group toured through Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts and Washington. They were well received, but their total earnings came to about thirty dollars, all of which was sent back to Fisk to be donated to a fund for the relief of the victims of the Chicago Fire. After the tour, the group's pastor felt the group needed a name which would truly represent them and capture the imagination of their potential audiences. Since they were virtually all newly freed slaves, a quote from Leviticus provided the perfect name: 'Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you.'
The group's repertoire, drawn from actual work songs, field 'calls' and gospel melodies, sung in antiphonic style, back and forth between the two quartets were so totally fresh and moving that the group became an instant success. In their wake, many other groups of black singers copied them; but the Jubilee Singers remained the standard by which all such groups were measured. Some reviewers, only accustomed to whites in burnt cork, performing minstrel skits and songs, were shocked to hear 'genuine Negroes' performing their own music. Another reviewer referred to them as 'minstrelsy in Church.' The Jubilee Singers toured both nationally and internationally as well as performing for President Ulysses S Grant at the White House and a separate performance for members of Congress. This book is one of only a handful that were signed and given out to special people during their overseas tour between 1875 and 1878. The original troupe disbanded in 1878, citing ill treatment at hotels, railways, and other public places; as well as ridicule and race baiting at their own concerts. Sadly Jim Crow was replacing the initial wonder and acceptance of talented African Americans following emancipation and Reconstruction. Another group was put together a year later by George White and Frederick Loudin. The author of the present biographical sketch of the Jubilee Singers was J. B. T. Marsh, journalist, publisher, Oberlin faculty member and soldier. In his words, it 'bridges' the span between the two earlier biographies about the singers by Reverend G. D. Pike. This includes more about their foreign tours and adds more music.