Posted by: Democratic Thinker | September 24, 2012

Weekly Story: Jubilee Singers—October 6, 1871

Weekly Story

Following the Civil War, George L. White—of the American Missionary Association—organizes a group of students to raise funds for Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee.

Any person of evangelical sentiments, who professes faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is not a slaveholder, or in the practice of other immoralities, and who contributes to the funds may become a member of the Society, …—Art. III, Constitution of the American Missionary Association.

Launched on Stormy Seas.


THE company as it left Nashville, October 6, 1871, followed by the good wishes, prayers, misgivings, and anxieties of the whole University, numbered thirteen persons. These were Mr. White, who was at the same time the captain, supercargo, pilot, steward, and crew of the ship; Miss Wells, the Principal of an American Missionary Association school at Athens, Alabama, who took the oversight of the girls of the party; and eleven students—Ella Sheppard, Maggie L. Porter, Jennie Jackson, Minnie Tate, Eliza Walker, Phoebe J. Anderson, Thomas Rutling, Benjamin M. Holmes, Greene Evans, Isaac P. Dickerson, and George Wells.

The day after reaching Cincinnati the Singers met with the Rev. Messrs. Halley and Moore, the pastors of the two leading Congregational churches of the city, who were so delighted with their songs that they immediately arranged to hold praise meetings in their churches on Sunday, the next day, that their people might have the pleasure of hearing them. Full audiences greeted them in both services. On Monday a free concert was given and a collection taken at the close. The audience was large but the contribution small.

It was on this Sunday and Monday, so well remembered all over the world, that the great Chicago fire swept away the houses of one hundred thousand people and property to the value of $200,000,000, In Ohio, as everywhere else, people could scarcely think or talk about anything else, much less give money to any other object.

There had not been for ten years a week that would have been, to all appearances, such an un-favorable time for the Singers to commence their work. Out of money and in debt as they were, they donated the entire proceeds of their first paid concert, which amounted to something less than $50, to the Chicago relief fund. This was given in Chillicothe, and called out a card from the Mayor and leading citizens cordially commending to public patronage the two concerts that followed.


—J. B. I. Marsh, The Story of the Jubilee Singers (1877).

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Fisk Jubilee Singers (1909).