The Fisk Jubilee Singers–how Kickstarter worked in the 1870’s

nypl.digitalcollections.510d47df-b73a-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.rI’m having a fine time writing about March Simpson and how she got her man. Still, I’m reminded that I have not yet posted about what exactly inspired this story. I’ve mentioned my family’s singing group, The Gift of Song, and how they sang spirituals, (African American folk songs), during the 1970’s and 1980’s. They were far from the first to do so, however.  In the wake of the Civil War, many of the enslaved wanted to hear no more of the spiritual music that they composed as they toiled in bondage. I made that reluctance part of the character of March’s father, Virgil.

Some understood that the songs reflected folk art. In Dark Midnight When I Rise, Ella Sheppard, one of the founding members of Fisk Jubilee Singers said, “The slave songs were never used by us then in public. They were associated with slavery and the dark past, and represented the things to be forgotten.” But a lot of people understood the songs were folk art and began to collect them.

One of the early collectors was George White, a teacher at a newly established school in Tennessee–Fisk. The school was having a difficult time raising funds to continue operation. A recently arrived teacher, George White, had heard some of the students singing and formed a group. They started traveling locally in Tennessee and raising funds for the school singing European-styled concert songs. As encores though, they would sing one or two of the spirituals. White noticed how those songs were received and proposed that they create an entire repertoire of the spirituals to sing the songs publicly on a regular basis. Some in the group didn’t want to. But what made the idea more palatable in the minds of many was the wedding of the spirituals with the European approach. By doing this, they created something different that took the spirituals to a new place.

It took some time for the group to grow into a worldwide phenomenon, but they did.  The Fisk Jubilee Singers endured a lot of bigotry and suffered indignities during their travels. But they also touched a lot of hearts. Their music let everyone know of the  humanity of the enslaved. By singing, they preserved the songs and they captured the genius of those unknown composers and lyricists of the music. They also built Jubilee Hall on the campus of Fisk University.  You can click the link to see it.

I have linked the tracks of The Gift of Song singing “Ride the Chariot” and “Don’t be Weary Traveller” here.

When my character, March Smithson is called upon to make a sacrifice for Milford College, she resists. But when mysterious new teacher Julian Lewis asks her, how long will she be able to hold out?  The Songbird’s Stand releases this spring.

 

 

My Second Birthday

Two years! Time has gone by so fast!

Two years! Time has gone by so fast!

This first blog post of April represents the second birthday for this blog.  A lot has changed since then.  The main reason that I started to blog was to provide a platform to build awareness for my novels about the Bledsoe sisters set during the years of the Great Migration.  Well as some of you may know, that series will be published later this year by Samhain Publishing. The first book,  A Virtuous Ruby, went up for pre-order sale this week on several platforms. It will be available on July 14, 2015.

So as I celebrate my second birthday and look forward to the third, I’m listing the places interested people will be able to order Ruby before it’s published (it will come to your e-readers on the morning of July 14). If you are able to, please pre-order. It will help me look good with the publisher! I’ll update this list when I know more about the print version.

I’m also listing the blog posts that directly involve Ruby and her history to help some of you become acquainted with her.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Virtuous-Ruby-Migrations-Heart-ebook/dp/B00VORJIIS/

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-virtuous-ruby-piper-huguley/1121695102?ean=9781619227415

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/a-virtuous-ruby

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Piper_Huguley_A_Virtuous_Ruby?id=cAbQBwAAQBAJ

A Virtuous Ruby is also available in the iTunes store.

Some history of Ruby:

The Cover Reveal: https://piperhuguley.com/2014/12/18/meet-ruby-cover-reveal-of-a-virtuous-ruby/

Ruby as midwife: https://piperhuguley.com/2014/03/30/african-american-midwives-and-ruby-bledsoe-a-shining-pride/

The Great Migration: https://piperhuguley.com/2013/05/05/what-was-the-great-migration/

Thank you so much for all of your support!  I’m looking forward to the next year!

More inspiration for the Hero of The Preacher’s Promise–William Golden(ing)

There are no pictures of William Golden, so I'll just put Virgil here instead....:)

There are no pictures of William Golden, so I’ll just put Virgil here instead….:)

At various times since last October, I’ve spoken about my various inspirations for Virgil Smithson (the hero of The Preacher’s Promise).   Another real life figure that inspired my character (blacksmith, preacher and emerging political figure) is William Golden (also known as Golding). After the Civil War, in Liberty County, he inspired the formerly enslaved, to believe that gaining an education meant everything to the forwarding of the race, even as he himself, Golden, was illiterate. This desire to encourage others  has always been an interesting phenomenon since I’ve known several illiterate individuals  across my life.  How does an individual like Golden still encourage people to attain the the education that he didn’t?

Golden was a member of the constitutional convention of 1867-68, where measures befitting the Radical Reconstruction were written into a new constitution after the war. He was also a member of the Georgia House of Representatives between 1867-70. In 1870, he transcribed a letter to the American Missionary Association to ask them for a teacher. They sent Eliza Ann Ward, a New England teacher who had previous teaching experience in Savannah and Hilton Head. He, along with his family, donated land to the building of a school– Dorchester Academy– on the grounds of the old family plantation. They were willing to share the land that had been deeded to them by relatives of the Gaulding family–the former people who had owned them.

His few years of political power meant that the academy had a solid basis from which to grow on in the early years. Ward left within a few years’ time, due to poor health. In 1874, they attempted to get her back but although she showed a fondness for the people in the area (she sent clothes), she did not return. The AMA arranged for a minister-principal to show up and take Golden’s place. Even after the replacement came, Golden did continue to obtain extra resources for the school. Golden was willing to go the extra mile for education for others.

The political machinations of expelling African Americans from the Georgia State House began after 1870, and he was no longer in office. Golding fades from history after that, unfortunately. I suspect that when the tides of Reconstruction changed back to favor Democrat rule, there was some kind of campaign to omit the histories of the short-lived political careers of Negro men who tried to bring some order to the lives of the formerly enslaved. Dorchester Academy, built in Golden’s Grove,  existed as an educationalentity into the 1940’s.  The buildings still exist as a museum and community service centers.

One biographer, according to the Liberty County History Society, has Golden working as a janitor in Savannah toward the end of his life. Is that a defeat or did Golden have the ultimate victory of making a stand for education? The website says he almost certainly has descendants in Liberty County. Does Golding’s legacy in the insistence of education live on in them? I hope so.