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Ebook Information

Spirituals and the Birth of a Black Entertainment Industry

Showbiz shaping sacred song’s soaring success

Spirituals performed by jubilee troupes became a sensation in post–Civil War America. First brought to the stage by choral ensembles like the Fisk Jubilee Singers, spirituals anchored a wide range of late nineteenth-century entertainments, including minstrelsy, variety, and plays by both black and white companies.

In the first book-length treatment of postbellum spirituals in theatrical entertainments, Sandra Jean Graham mines a trove of resources to chart the spiritual’s journey from the private lives of slaves to the concert stage. Graham navigates the conflicting agendas of those who, in adapting spirituals for their own ends, sold conceptions of racial identity to their patrons. In so doing they laid the foundation for a black entertainment industry whose artistic, financial, and cultural practices extended into the twentieth century. CUSTOM_DIV


"[A] one-of-a-kind title . . . Many volumes address spirituals themselves, but few detail the actual exponents of this important African American tradition in such a refreshingly disarming way."--Library Journal

"Unpacks issues of power and cultural authenticity in the white-controlled jubilee industry and within blackface minstrelsy performances, including Uncle Tom and plantation shows . . . Spirituals and the Birth of a Black Entertainment Industry will be crucial to anyone studying American music, especially those focused on the post-Civil War period through 1900, and of course anyone who studies African American music history."--Blackgrooves.org

"A pleasure to read, the book weaves meticulous research into an engaging narrative that vividly enriches understanding of postbellum American music and theater. Highly recommended." --Choice

"Sandra Graham breaks new ground in her nuanced examination of the white-controlled spiritual or jubilee industry, and of claims for musical and cultural authenticity by black college and independent jubilee groups, as well as white and black performers of blackface minstrelsy, American folk music, and European classical traditions."--Portia K. Maultsby, coeditor of Issues in African American Music: Power, Gender, Race, Representation and African American Music: An Introduction, second edition

"A detailed, cogent, and fascinating history of the popularization of Negro spirituals [that is] thoroughly documented and covers a truly vast range of information. One of the especially distinctive features of Graham's approach is its careful consideration of musical elements and how they figure in defining objects under study." --Thomas L. Riis, author of Frank Loesser

Publication of this book is supported by the AMS 75 PAYS Endowment of the American Musicological Society, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; by the Babson Faculty Research Fund; and by a grant from the H. Earle Johnson Fund of the Society for American Music.


Sandra Jean Graham is an associate professor of music at Babson College.

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