In African American Folksong and American Cultural Politics: The Lawrence Gellert Story, scholar and musician Bruce Conforth tells the story of one of the most unusual collections of African American folk music ever amassed-and the remarkable story of the man who produced it: Lawrence Gellert.
Folk singer and labor organizer John Handcox was born to illiterate sharecroppers, but went on to become one of the most beloved folk singers of the prewar labor movement. This beautifully told oral history gives us Handcox in his own words, recounting a journey that began in the Deep South and went on to shape the labor music tradition.
In Segregating Sound, Karl Hagstrom Miller argues that the categories that we have inherited to think and talk about southern music bear little relation to the ways that southerners long played and heard music. Focusing on the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth, Miller chronicles how southern music--a fluid complex of sounds and styles in practice--was reduced to a series of distinct genres linked to particular racial and ethnic identities.
It should not surprise us when we see God use the common things of life--snow, streetlights, a rented suit, a mop--to accomplish the incredible. But it "should" inspire us. From the depths of near obscurity at the turn of the last century, a young African American man rose to fame through those ordinary things--listening intently out in the snow as a child to beautiful music in an elegant hall, listening to his grandfather sing the old slave songs as he lit the streetlamps, sweating through a rented suit during an audition for a musical scholarship, a chance meeting with a musical legend as he was mopping the halls of his school.
To Do This, You Must Know How traces black vocal music instruction and inspiration from the halls of Fisk University to the mining camps of Birmingham and Bessemer, Alabama, and on to Chicago and New Orleans. In the 1870s, the Original Fisk University Jubilee Singers successfully combined Negro spirituals with formal choral music disciplines, and established a permanent bond between spiritual singing and music education. Early in the twentieth century there were countless initiatives in support of black vocal music training conducted on both national and local levels. The surge in black religious quartet singing that occurred in the 1920s owed much to this vocal music education movement. In Bessemer, Alabama, the effect of school music instruction was magnified by the emergence of community-based quartet trainers who translated the spirit and substance of the music education movement for the inhabitants of working-class neighborhoods. These trainers adapted standard musical precepts, traditional folk practices, and popular music conventions to create something new and vital Bessemer’s musical values directly influenced the early development of gospel quartet singing in Chicago and New Orleans through the authority of emigrant trainers whose efforts bear witness to the effectiveness of “trickle down” black music education. A cappella gospel quartets remained prominent well into the 1950s, but by the end of the century the close harmony aesthetic had fallen out of practice, and the community-based trainers who were its champions had virtually disappeared, foreshadowing the end of this remarkable musical tradition.
For over 200 years in African-American churches throughout the country, gospel and spiritual music have offered solace and been a source of celebration, leaving a mark not only on the Christian world, but on popular music as well. Ev'ry Time I Feel the Spirit contains the lyrics and music of 101 of the most widely known and cherished of these pieces, ranging from heartring spirituals sung during slave times (Steal Away; Swing Low, Sweet Chariot) to songs of unity from the civil rights movement and contemporary times (We Shall Overcome, I'll Fly Away). The book also presents a biography of each composer and the history of the evolution of each song, examining the role it played in enabling African-Americans to develop the strength to carry on in the face of adversity. An important historical document as well as an inspirational gift, the book captures the rich connections between song and experience as no other volume does.
Walk Together Children is a collection of spirituals songs brought to life from award winning children’s book author and illustrator Ashley Bryan. Lovingly updated and with a foreword from Dr. Henrietta Mays Smith, recipient of the 2011 Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Practitioner Award for lifetime achievement, this edition includes such favorites as “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands;” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot;” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Each song is accompanied by linocut illustrations that capture the strength and spirit of the music.