Folk Song Of The American Negro - Online Book

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he saw in the far-off distance. That is the way of faith. Had he been timid and fearful; had he lacked a breadth of vision; had he looked closely and narrowly, he would have seen cold, staring faces, faces sneering and faces hostile. He would have seen cold, snowy nights, and black boys and girls shivering with him, as they trudged from inn to inn, hotel to hotel, boarding house to boarding house, to find shelter from the bitter cold; he would have seen empty halls in which they sang, and himself selling his wife's jewelry, her wedding presents and his own personal belongings, with which to pay bills; he would have seen himself standing up humbly before scant audi�ences begging some man to give him enough money to pay railroad fare to the next engagement. He would have seen Metropolitan newspapers heartlessly cartooning his singers, ridiculing them and hurling at them "-Nigger Minstrels."
He might have seen all this, but he did not. It was a mercy, for such a vision might have done damage even to his faith and courage. So, inspired by his own vision, tactfully, but directly in the face of protests, Mr. White continued in his course. At designated intervals he would gather his choir into a room, close the door and the win�dows as closely as advisable, and rehearse in pianissimo tones, the song of the cabin and of the field. The training of this company was a work of patience. Many were the devices and methods to teach them the proper tone production. The smoothing down of their voices was an accomplishment which came after long and hard labor. It was easy to approach this music, and assume an attitude neither reverential nor serious, and in all probability had this course been followed the initiation of the company into the world of entertain�ment would have been smoother, but they could never have attained to that grand success which they did work out. Finally, under�standing this, Mr. White taught them to enter into the spirit and feeling of their fathers when they sang their fathers' songs.
There was another who saw a vision. It was Ella Sheppard. She saw her mother with her babe in her arms, rushing madly to leap over the bluffs of the Cumberland down into the deep waters; she saw the dear old Aunt Jane, as she laid her restraining hand upon the arm of the frenzied mother, while in kindly voice she said, "Don't you do it, honey; God's got a great work for this child to do. She's goin' to stand before kings and queens of this earth. Don't you do it, honey." Oh, the joys that filled her soul as she anticipated the fulfillment of this prophecy!