Folk Song Of The American Negro - Online Book

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It was the sixth day of October in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-one, when George L. White started out from Fisk School with his eleven students to raise money, that Fisk might live. Professor Adam K. Spenee, who was prin�cipal of the school, gave Mr. White all the money in his possession save one dollar, which he held back, that the treasury might not be empty. While friends and parents wept, waved, and feared, the train puffed out of the station. Ail sorts of difficulties, obstacles, oppositions, and failures faced them until through wonderful per-sistence they arrived at Oberlin, Ohio. Here the National Council of Congregational Churches was in session. After repeated efforts, Mr. White gained permission for his singers to render one song. Many of the members of the Council objected vigorously to having the important business of the session interrupted by such songs and such singers. During the time of the session the weather had been dark and cloudy. The sun had not shown one moment, it had not cast one ray upon the village. The singers went into the gallery of the church, unobserved by all save the moderator and a few who were on the rostrum. At a lull in the proceeding, there floated sweetly to the ears of the audience the measures of "Steal Away to Jesus." Suddenly the sun broke through the clouds, shone through windows upon the singers, and verily they were a heavenly choir. For a time the Council forgot its business and called for more and more. It was at this point that Henry Ward Beecher almost demanded of Mr. White that he cancel all engagements and come straight to his church in Brooklyn. They did not cancel all their engagements, but they went to New York as soon as possible. They were cared for by the officers of the American Missionary Association.
Mr. Beecher arranged to have them in his prayer meeting and to introduce them to New York and New England. He carried out his plan admirably. In his own prayer meeting he introduced them in fitting words, telling their mission. After they had sung several of their melodies to the evident enjoyment of the large audience, he arose and said, "I'm going to do what I want every person in this house to do." With these words he turned his pockets inside out and put into the offering plate all the money he had. Others fol�lowed, and when the offering was counted it was $1,300.00. The newspapers of New York had full account the next morning, some approving and some ridiculing.

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III