Folk Song Of The American Negro - Online Book

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reminder of the awful night of bondage. It is nothing that newly emancipated slaves sent out by schools like Fisk and Hampton, gained friends and large sums of money by singing these slave songs. That Fisk University can truthfully be said in large part to be a product of these plantation melodies, is nothing against the fact that just after emancipation the Negro refused to sing his own music in public, especially in the schools.
When the Original Fisk Singers started out to earn money for their struggling school, they did not sing their own, but the cur�rent music of the day. It was not until they saw that they were doomed to failure that they began to use the plantation melodies, the effectiveness of which was discovered by what was apparently a mere chance. After one crushingly unsuccessful concert, the an�nouncement was made that if any cared to remain for a while after the conclusion of the program, the company would sing a few of their own folk songs. Those who remained showed so plainly their perfect delight, that the singers themselves were astonished. People then began to talk about this new music, not knowing just what to believe about it. It was something similar to curiosity but, in fact, more than that which seized upon the people. The music made men rejoice, it made them weep, it made them ashamed, it made them better. They loved to hear it. All this was positive. The singing of these songs brought ovation after ovation. Though it was a sacrifice of a just pride to sing these songs, the sacrifice, when made, brought a new day, and a new blessing. It introduced the Negro to himself! The Negro is not so different from other men in his thought as he is in his feelings. In thought, he is generic; in feel�ing, more specific. His feelings are broader and deeper than those of other men and they have more directive influence and power over him than other men's feelings have upon them. This spirituality is the source of his consuming enthusiasm, which has carried him over so many obstacles, to the accomplishment of the all but miraculous. The fact, however, that this feeling is so evident in all his life, work, play, and religion/ has led many to conclude that as he abounds in emotion he is lacking in intellect. It is almost unnecessary to state that this inference is a non-sequitur. Like other men, the Negro is affected by his environment, only more deeply affected. He suffers more, he enjoys more. This is one reason why he seems an imitator; this is the reason why he can so easily adapt himself to his surround-