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May 1, 1872

The Vassar Miscellany for July 1, 1872, reported the visit to the college, on May 1, of the Jubilee Singers of Fiske University, Nashville Tennessee. The group was formed in 1871, when Fisk—opened in1866 as the first American university offering a liberal arts education to “young men and women irrespective of color”— was in dire financial need. The school’s treasurer and professor of music, George L. White, formed the choral group of nine men and women and toured with them, raising money, bringing notice to the institution and introducing to American music both “slave songs” and “Negro spirituals.”

“They treated us,” said the Miscellany, “to an impromptu concert, the news of which spread like wild-fire from room to room and gathered teachers and pupils in the Chapel. Professor White told us how these noble boys and girls were working to support their college, and how, but for their efforts, it must have been given up. Then they sang their simple melodies with such pathos that few of the listeners were unmoved. ‘Keep me from sinking down’ was the fit expression of the great hungry longing, the sorely-tried yet never-faltering faith of their race. The students testified their enjoyment of the singing and their sympathy with the young people and their object by the most hearty applause and by the contribution of eighty dollars to the Jubilee Concert in Poughkeepsie.”

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