Fisk Jubilee Singers
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”
Colossians 3:15-16 (NIV UK)
During the period directly after the American Civil War, many universities sprung up throughout the South with a single goal: educating “freedmen”—men and women who, only months earlier, had been slaves. One of the most famous of these institutions was Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Fisk opened its doors in 1866, but soon ran into financial trouble. By 1871, the college was on the verge of bankruptcy. Unless something changed fast, they’d have to close their doors.
And that’s when the Fisk Jubilee Singers were born.
The group consisted of students, young men and women, many of whom had been slaves themselves—but all of whom knew how to do one thing very well: sing. The group began touring America in hopes of raising enough money to keep their school afloat. But unlike the ‘black minstrel’ acts of the day where singers would don blackface and sing derogatory songs about themselves, the Fisk singers remained true to who they were. They dressed in their Sunday best and sang songs of deep, spiritual meaning.
Over the next few years, the Jubilee Singers performed across America and Europe, singing for such people as Mark Twain, Ulysses S. Grant and even Queen Victoria! And their efforts paid off, raising more than enough money to save Fisk University. In fact, they raised so much money that the school built Jubilee Hall in their honour, an historic structure that stands to this day.
What I like so much about these singers is that they didn’t sit on the side-lines. When their college needed help, they took action. And when the world expected them to look a certain way, they stunned audiences by rooting themselves in their identity in Christ, using their God-given talents to help others re-think stereotypes. And again, when the going got rough, this group of singers turned to their Lord for strength.
The Fisk Jubilee Singers have continued on and they still sing their distinctive songs today. I hope their example encourages you as much as it has me.
Gracious Father, such examples as these singers are inspiring and instructive. We pray that their example will similarly illuminate many others, as it has done for us, with the result that you are praised and given the glory and thanks. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Study by Joseph Tkach
About the Author:
Joseph Tkach is the President of Grace Communion International (the Denominational name of The Worldwide Church of God UK), and resides in California, USA. You are welcome to attend one of our local Church congregations located throughout the UK and Ireland. For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.gracecom.org.uk under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.
Contact: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org