As jubilee troupes multiplied and grew in popularity, minstrels and variety performers began to burlesque their performances by using songs modeled on spirituals, which I call commercial spirituals. These came in three broad categories: parodies of specific spirituals (including contrafacta), popular songs modeled on the musical style and content of spirituals, and popular songs whose lyrics (but not their musical style) alluded to spirituals. Bryant’s Minstrels was an early blackface troupe that parodied the spiritual “Gospel Train,” under the title “Get Aboard Little Children.” Other minstrel and variety performers parodied specific troupes of jubilee singers; they became known generically as the “Hamtown Students” or a variation on that name. This chapter examines specific song parodies by burlesque jubilee troupes, informed by newspaper reviews and the Ham-Town Students Songster, which contains words and music. Performances by both white minstrel performers and black performers are considered, with particular attention to the Georgia Minstrels.
Keywords: blackface minstrelsy, religious parody, commercial spirituals, imitation spirituals, folk spiritual, concert spiritual, publication of commercial spirituals, Hamtown Students (white), Ham-Town Students Songster, black Hamtown acts, “Gospel Train” (spiritual), Bryant’s Minstrels, Harry C. Browne, Bob Hart, James Budworth (minstrel performer), Fisk Jubilee Singers, “Steal Away,”, E. D. Gooding (minstrel performer), William Courtwright (minstrel performer), G. W. H. Griffin (minstrel performer), Tennesseans (jubilee troupe), Hampton Institute Singers (jubilee troupe), Callender’s Georgia Minstrels, the Georgian Students (burlesques of spirituals), Bogtown Quartette, J. H. Haverly, plantation themes in blackface minstrelsy, Pete Devonear, “Dar’s a Meeting Here To-night,”, Sam Lucas, “Carve Dat Possum,”, “Go Down, Moses,”, Henry Hart (black violinist, minstrel manager), Will S. Hays, “Angels Meet Me at the Cross Roads” (commercial spirituals), James Stewart, “Angel Gabriel” (commercial spirituals), Robert Moton
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