Political Activism: Paul Robeson And The Fisk Jubilee Singers

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Two important cases or groups that advocated towards political activism within the African American community are Paul Robeson and the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Paul Robeson used music activism to speak on the “issues of race, labor, and internationalism in the spirited political culture” of the Black Popular Front. The used of the song “ Ol’ Man River” had a noteworthy marked on his development as a political figure. Fisk educated former slaves with the support and “donations from the Peabody Fund and assistance from the Freedmen's Bureau for construction and building repairs.” Over the five next years donations declined and Frisk ended in bankruptcy. George Leonard White wanted to raise money to save the institution from failure so he formed …show more content…

The first response the got from the audience was critical. “ The first concerts were in small towns. Surprise, curiosity, and some hostility were the early audience response to these young singers who did not perform in the traditional “minstrel fashion (Ugarizza).” The Fisk Jubilee Singers performed black music, and this music did not conform to the universal minstrel standards. They first performed popular melodies from the European era, but they were concerned and scared that the white audience would only want to hear standard white repertoire, so they started performing religious and inspirational songs based on the “African American experience.” Their first concert was coincidental as Mr.White saw a large event in Cincinnati and he “saw an opportunity to gain public exposure for his troupe (Anderson, 37 ).” The audience was amused by how distnictve they were from the burlesque that was presented “ on the minstrel stage” and they gained recognition from the audience. The Fisk Jubilee Singers successfully introduced black spirituals into American …show more content…

Paul Robeson was perceived as a respected figure who used his music and performances, such as with his signature, “Ol’ Man River”, to speak against civil rights in the workplace. The views of him changed over the years and he was then criticized and labeled as “ a communist traitor for insinuating that black Americans wouldn't fight in a war against the Soviet Union (King).” It was later found out that he was misrepresented, but it was already too late. In the case with the Fisk Jubilee Singers, they were first criticized for not singing in the traditional “minstrel fashion.” They shifted from singing operatic melodies to black spirituals. They had to adapt to a new style of music because at that time they were around a racist society and they believed that if they maintained singing the same style of music it would not allure the white audience. This creates a belief that people should uphold to the standards of white people to be respected in society. They distanced themselves from being stereotyped by corresponding to the dominance of “ mainstream of American society” instead of challenging the conventional beliefs to acknowledge the idea that it is acceptable to be divergent. After they changed their genre of music the crowd grew and they effectively contributed to the acceptance, advancement, and conservation of black spirituals.With their perseverance and beautiful

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