Monday, January 29, 2007

A Band of Angels: The Jubilee Singers

I know I just wrote about a children's book last Monday, but I picked up A Band of Angels (by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Raul Colon) this weekend, and with Black History Month starting this week, I just had to tell you about it.

A Band of Angels is a fictional account based on the real story of the Jubilee Singers. The Jubilee Singers began as a 9-member choral ensemble at Fisk University (the very first American university open to African-Americans). When the school, only 5 years after opening, was in dire financial straits and in danger of closing down, the Jubilee Singers went on the road to raise money for the school. They were the first group to publicly perform slave songs and spirituals, and were often met with extreme hostility. But they kept singing, and eventually made enough money to build Jubilee Hall, the first permanent building on Fisk University's campus.

I've been interested in the Jubilee Singers for a long time, and I was so happy to find a beautifully executed book like this to introduce their story to children. The first time I visited Nashville, I took a pilgrimage to Jubilee Hall at Fisk University. I had that hushed, hold-your-breath feeling you get when you walk into an ordinary building on an ordinary street where very extraordinary things have happened. This book captures that feeling, and besides makes you want to sing!
Read more about the Jubilee Singers
PBS's The American Experience 1999 film & website about the Jubilee Singers
The Current Jubilee Singers

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