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Spirituals and the Birth of a Black Entertainment Industry$
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Sandra Jean Graham

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780252041631

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252041631.001.0001

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Spirituals in Uncle Tom Shows, Melodramas, and Spectacles

Spirituals in Uncle Tom Shows, Melodramas, and Spectacles

(p.183) Chapter 7 Spirituals in Uncle Tom Shows, Melodramas, and Spectacles
Spirituals and the Birth of a Black Entertainment Industry

Sandra Jean Graham

University of Illinois Press

Stage productions of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) were a staple of theaters across the United States well into the twentieth century. In 1876, after jubilee troupes had become a national craze, George Howard and his wife Caroline added a jubilee troupe to their stage production, setting off a new trend. Soon jubilee singers were a prerequisite for every “Tom” production. This chapter examines the role of black singers in the show, using Howard’s revision of George Aiken’s script as well as reviews, and lists the spirituals used in the initial productions. A symbiosis between Tom shows and jubilee troupes developed, with jubilee troupes increasingly adding ethnographic portrayals of slave life to their concerts. Soon other plays that had a more tangential relation to plantation life (or none at all) began incorporating jubilee singers. Meantime, the Hyers sisters and Elizabeth Hopkins mounted musical plays that incorporated spirituals as well as cultivated music. Minstrel managers attempted a new level of “verisimilitude” in theatrical representations of slave life and music, constructing outdoor plantations and holding performances in slave cabins and cotton fields, as well as on nearby stages.

Keywords:   Centennial Exhibition and slave song, jubilee singers in Uncle Tom’s Cabin onstage, spirituals in plays, George Howard and Mrs. Howard, Wilmington Jubilee Singers, ethnographic representations of slavery onstage, John H. Slavin, Slavin’s Georgia Jubilee Singers, “Is Massa Gwine to Sell Us Today?” (spiritual), “Gospel Train,”, “Steal Away,”, “Ole Sheep Know the Road,”, “Children Don’t Get Weary,”, “Sweet Canaan,”, Jarrett and Palmer’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Fisk Jubilee Singers’ repertory of spirituals, Hampton Institute Singers’ repertory of spirituals, “Carve Dat Possum,”, Virginia Jubilee Singers, C. H. Smith’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin Company, James M. Waddy (black singer), The White Slave (Barley Campbell), The Passion’s Slave (Bartley Campbell), Putnam the Iron Son of ’76 (Nathaniel Harrington Bannister), Charlotte Crabtree (Lotta), Hyers sisters, Out of the Wilderness, Out of Bondage, Redpath Lyceum Bureau, Sam Lucas, Elizabeth Hopkins, Peculiar Sam, or the Underground Railroad, The Slave’s Escape or The Underground Railroad, “The Rocks and the Mountains” (spiritual), “Rise and Shine” (spiritual), Haverly’s Colored Minstrels, outdoor spectacles with jubilee singers, environmental plantation spectacles, summer entertainments at Oakland Garden (Boston), J. H. Haverly, Haverly’s Gigantic Colored Minstrels, Callender’s Colored Minstrels, South before the War, Billy McClain, Charley Howard, the Standard Quartette (black), Black America, Nate Salsbury

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