Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
fbisboth it'sbyou know as ihad with a glassthis is a good talk about these issuesin late night is what he uses on these issues
how have you been a public worldmusicians in the nineteenth century were pretty crass people and astorreon performers they were very my suspect by the americans general publicspaces you go into small towns and his singers were in small towns and thesewere people who were coming in from the outside they didn't noted that the task wouldn't know who they workit in other backgrounds they didn't know they'd never been introduced to them so they were prettymuch suspect they were kind of a play onan evil by a benign evil because people want to hear the concertbut you might associate with them socially so there was a there was this this this imageand show people that they're facing has had to deal with because they were in thiscontext of show business and show business was very important in the late nineteenthcentury a theater in town instead of having a movie comes her who would have thetraveling troupe's either actors or elocution this
or mesmerized years or minced rules or opera companies or concertsaying is they would come through when you're performing the fear now that the future is a little bit different because they'reperforming that they're trying to stay away from the image of being theater peoplebecause their audience are intended audience is not as it would not necessarily go to thetheater they would so so these the audience is that they're lookingfor oftentimes would be churchgoing people and they were often a rant or arrangeto perform in churches in part to distance themselves from that imageof being part of the theater which was very difficult imagecoloradoboulder strewn pasture because you know the opera
company comes a town or traveling virtuoso pianist comes to town this is something thathad been part of american society since buses reason it at twentyit's traveling virtuoso pianist traveling vile as traveling series had been goingon basically a concert circuit since the twenties or thirties actually causing says theeighteen teams that the jubilee singers are trying tocreate a whole different kind of an idea they're trying tocreateand plus paul ina statement that the question is justtalk a little bit about the difference between the currentlaw there's less than one yeartennessee well in any there therethey sat out as performers as that again
now with the center's set out as performersof concert music and they have a certain goal in mind they won't raise money for the universitythey will make a point about the kind of music they can sing the kind of music that african americans can singeducated african americans and this is obviously looking forspring researchers going on because a singing spirituals and so forth you really songs orspirituals but as part of itunes itunesperformers they fit into a certain a certainimage of people that is basically show business people and thisthis whole group of people has a long history in american societytraveling virtuoso pianists traveling virtuoso violinist singers and so forthwhich goes back to the eighteen teens eighteen twice so when people in thetown see that a concert truth has come to town they automatically assume
that it it's show business people and that's a different audience than thechurch going people furthermore they see that as an african american or blackroux didn't assume that their men's jobs not and which is completely different from noaaconcert has a group that is aiming toward an audiencecomprised of churchgoing people not to complicate the issue is this whole ideaof churchgoing people not going to the theater or you know in the nineteenth century there's along history of particular religions being people of particular it's persuasionbeen very much opposed to the theater on the wine and extreme and you have people whobelieve that that play acting is essentially lying is essentially just pretendingand therefore is that the work of the devil is bad and you do not want the associate with the feederyou know i set foot in theory you will be seen talking to a theater person so that's that's theone extreme and in the new book until we get to that the other side were people are pretty
there are perfectly amenable to going to theatrical performances they realize ispretending is just is to show and there can be some good some or all ahgood coming from the theater and in between you have you have a lots ofvariations and end it depends to a great extent on the location and it addressesresettlement on the religious persuasion southern baptists or charismaticreligions religious people would not dream of going to a theater whereasi've just a pale use our congregation this is over there on the other andso you have a you have a lot of variation and not just entering into thestyle of religion but also in the year in the location small towns to great extent aremore insular they're less cosmopolitan in the facility have a hardertime persuading people who go to whatever churches in atlanta wherechurches are are in there tap persuading them to come to a concert this winter that they're not they're not part of thewhole show business world oh
really there is breakingnews and it transitionsif you're the other side of your presence to organizefor example plans that should be worked throughthe night and sent messenger well what it will again sometimes just logistics what doesthat look like well anyone who has hastaken up colleagues or a high school glee club or a band ororchestra on a small tumor has an idea of the detail theimmense amount of detail that has to be attended to anybody whosechild has participated such a thing has has about an inkling of an ideabut even someone of that nature was working the things
today we will be setting us up for today for example you have theadvantages of e mail and fax in the us poses a recent telephone and so on so forthpeople then did not have that obviously we have to remember that people forget that that there's amove those modern conveniences were not were not part of the ian of the picture so if you're animpresario anyone take a group of say nine singers onto or you have tobecome familiar with the rare of schedule as man how connectionscan be made and connections between trains and steamers and because the wholetransportation network was intro law to you could get from it on a train go someplace and againsteamboat go someplace and so on so forth also have to have look at your command theschedules of although the stages you know that the horse drawncarriages come and forget that they're you don't have automobiles and eighteen seventies shehad have all of that information as a fingertip you have to be familiar with our
workplace is there were real singers could stay one boarding houses were availablein and be able to go to a co op to make arrangements of those boarding house andyou had to be a live feed your singers you had to be able to make sure i get it could cleanthemselves and clean their clothes you had to allow it to organizeor renting our hall and sometimes in small towns the hall was notused very frequently you had to clean the place you had to arrange for heatingand lighting in the places a wonderful story told by an african americanvaudevillian who who wrote a book calleda hundred years of the negro in american theater eyes name was tom fletcher and he writesabout his experiences and the lakers it's without the jingleyou're sure the sky tentso so as it isn't as name
ok as a wonderful story that a man named tom fletcher tells him and hismemoirs he's a vaudevillian and he got a start in the late mideighteen eighties and he talks about going on toward the minstrel true they were touring inohio indiana kentucky and they would go into the small towncity said the first thing they had to do was to tiffany a town hall basically an inaccurate and breathe aduster dead leaves and so forth because of all was not rented very free it was used bylocal roots and then they had to arrange to light the hall to try an approximate what ifear look like local roots it would rent the hall would bring their lamps there they're kerosene or thatwell at home unlike the hawk he's touring turn this was in care alliance with them to imagine thecomplications of acetate what would keep what he describes it is it takes these these bottlesthey put candles in them and spread them around the hall spread them around the state to try toapproximate the lining of the theme of the classes we don't think about today you know you print hallyou turn the light switch on the us which comes on your u turn and the thermostat and he
comes out and research at the interview with all these kinds of things in the nineteenth centuryadvertising was an issue that had to do with an adversary generally travel ahead acouple of days ahead of the troop would contact read the localnewspaper put an ad in the paper would contact a local printing job printing place which might be anewspaper printed play bills generally about this vague sometimes largerour walk around in a nail them onto trees associate the telephone pole to the fourseven markets and where the trees and advertise through word of mouth or throughthese through this rather to our corner the pedestrian way of advertisingand then sell them to sell the tickets so it was a bend them and thentherefore there for the concert knew of the concept is back in some of the town a couple of stops backperforming and he how to make sure things are ok for them and their baggage was ok thatthat that they were getting to the train on time that they made the connections that they are
though that they the intricacies are astonishing and antiobama the mine especially when you consider that all this had to be done either in person or by mail orby telegraphwhat kind of placesyou stay primarily in boarding houses andhotels if you're willing to spend extra money now the fist singers areare on a fund raising two or so they're trying to cut expenses where they can't theydon't want to spend a lot of money for a hotel so that probably staying in boarding houses generally once apretty close to the rare word they have to get to the theater then so forthwho in the reminiscences that that i've looked at byvaudevillian for example are talking about the kind of boarding houses they say hard thatdoes not make the boarding houses of the accommodations look very appetizing i'mvaudeville is referred to rooms as sad to look under the bed rooms
they're either dirty there are things don't work if they get therethe blinds don't work as macabre is there'sdirt there's peeling paint on the walls drunks commanded at odd hours to that thatmatters is a lumpy or or at at worst they're very thinlycovered springs the food is not very good at get to usethe bathroom they have to go to our house obviously see eighteen seventies is not much indoor plumbingand so the conditions were not or not very favorablei'll probably some bugs bugs in the beds ofrats i mean i'm i'm theorizing but onit he can expect that in a place that's full of trance in just a month only ominousshow transportationcommittee
okok while the bass prisonbeing an african american toren in the eighteen seven says reconstructionperiod is complicated as seen by the very fact of that race ifyou're travelling on a train the performers had a trialand the jim crow color which is generally the car that is right in back of the locomotive now remember one time adiesel locomotive talking about steam engines ever allowed there's smokepouring out of a smokestack for sinners and if you're in the car behindthe idea the engine of the jim crow court again in a summertime youwant to open the windows because it's very stuffy and you open the windows todusk comes in this happens in fact not just with the jim crow carter with all the cars train travel onhis time was not particularly comfortable and there's constantmotion you can get motion sickness isn't your thing and again during the summertime you
open up the windows just to dusk comes in it gets in your hair is in your eyes because all of yourskin to get senior luke imagine getting your teeth and the first thing you want to do when itdoes the place was wash themselves wash their clothes which of course was not particularly easybut it's complicated by the fact if you are an american and you're in a car that is closestto the engine so it's hotter it's noisier that the smoking rate inaddition to the dust is coming in so it's not particularly comfortable now thecars in the wintertime or heated by basically woodstoves there located in the middle of the carcasses all of the cars of thetrain cars are wooden so you can imagine if there is a crash and there werefrequent train crashes during his time then there will be consequence fire becausebecause the wood stove with the embers would libya make me itburst into flames now the problem aside from train crashes an oath
of healing is that if you have to still high enough to keep the wholecar then the people who are close to the stove are burningup we have the windows and everything is very stuffy andforth as well as i as i mentioned steamers werepart of the whole transportation safety system packet boats which wereessentially other boats that carried produceinsulin so what also to calm passengers and they operate on a regular schedule on rivers in on the great lakes aswell and they operate in with they they did dovetail withthe railroads as well so and in traveling onthese boats with a car how idyllic you're on a steamboat and people pay big bucks today to go on to thedelta queen or whatever but it wasn't all that i don'tlike it and it was two stories of that there were dangers involved there were there were in discomfort
involved if you have motion sickness if you're are if you're on a boat and say themiddle in chesapeake and one of the famous thunderstorms comes up images of picking up to deal with thisrelief lindsay crouse by modern standards and thunderstorms and waves and so and soforth that was something in terms of discomfort you have to do it now on top of all of this arethe complications in the discomforts of trowel that anybody had to deal with evenwealthy people are you have to add on top of that the complications ofrace and discrimination and segregation so as i mentioned before in terms ofrail passage african americans were relegated to certain cars the least isour or cars in terms of steam passage they could not be firstclass passengers i had to be second class passengers the second class at areas werebasically the lower part of that i'm never going to steam the terminology butthe lower part sit underneath and ventilation wasn't good but everything was
segregated in terms of race in terms of gender and that wasusually they were personally to sleep in but there were also saw a smallrecession or where their chairs so forth but again this wasn't this was the second classaccommodations and african americans even if they're rich and wealthy we're notallowed to to use the first class accommodations and then thefinal compliance of transportation is there is a small town tosmall towns in on the rail thisthe finalpart of the transportation component is is getting from small town tosmall town you saying astagecoach and of course staged trial in a timeless dirty dustyby a jolt here just china to turn imagine writing a stagecoach inn you'reflying along like this for hours three amazing that people
actually do this i've read i've read accounts of people who were travelingperformers and they describe this as busy a particularly difficultpassage on a road that was full of potboiler saying is bing bing it'sbeen thrown from one end to the other end of the car and get passengers to be i'm falling each other'slaps and so forth it's a big strain isn't the usual but it's part of reality at the timeand one thing i should mention is that when an impresario is arranging a concert ormost probably he's going to try and set up concerts along rail lines drawn asteamboat line rather than trying to rely on a smaller stage stage coming agebecause it's easier to be mean in the rail transportation system in the eighties seventies immunizes wasvery expensive especially in the eastern half of the country so it is entirely possibleto hit town after time after time i just getting on the train getting off a tray in yourperformance after performance get back on the train you know the next and his ego you boring housedo the performance and so forth so i'm not really sure about the sisters
about their itinerary but i suspect that there that george white teenager i wasmore apt to schedule them in places that were easily accessible by tradeandflop houses cages to just the accommodationsand again with you work on youclinicians are youok but most performersof this time wood would stay overnight in hotels ifyou're on the lower end of the performance spectrum in terms ofmoney you won't save as much money in the system that are in that category because this is a money raisingand devore oh you're staying and flop houses or in boarding houses thekitchen meals there the mules or nothing to write home about the rooms weregenerally dirty and they were not well kept the vaudevillian as
of this period referred to them as one of the bedrooms there wasprobably bugs in the bags that were probably rats around things didn't workvery well the blinds are probably broke and i can just imagine aplace that it is that is geared to deal with transienceso so we have we have a not very whomluxury of such commendations to begin with and on top of that you have again theholes the hole veneer of race and segregation many boarding houses wouldnot accommodate african americans and especially if you're dealing with the city's first toarrive this is singers and in a team in the early seventies making seventy one they'reperforming in places like ohio indiana and kentuckyand they're going to small towns that are not necessarilywell into or familiar one to deal with are familiar
This record is featured in “Jubilee Singers Interviews.”
American Experience
Jubilee Singers: Sacrifice and Glory
Raw Footage
Interview with Katherine Preston, Music Historian
Contributing Organization
WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/15-hm52f7kt8f).
Katherine Preston Interview about a group of young ex- slaves in Nashville, Tennessee, who set out on a mission to save their bankrupt school by giving concerts. Traveling first through cities in the North, then on to venues across Europe, the Jubilee Singers introduced audiences to the power of spirituals, the religious anthems of slavery. Driven to physical collapse and even death, the singers proved more successful - and more inspirational - than anyone could have imagined.
Race and Ethnicity
American history, African Americans, civil rights, racism, lynching, Mississippi
(c) 2000-2017 WGBH Educational Foundation
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Release Agent: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: barcode7497_Preston_01_SALES_ASP_h264 Amex 864x486.mp4 (unknown)
Duration: 0:24:05
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “American Experience; Jubilee Singers: Sacrifice and Glory; Interview with Katherine Preston, Music Historian,” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 20, 2019,
MLA: “American Experience; Jubilee Singers: Sacrifice and Glory; Interview with Katherine Preston, Music Historian.” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 20, 2019. <>.
APA: American Experience; Jubilee Singers: Sacrifice and Glory; Interview with Katherine Preston, Music Historian. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from