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Horace Clarence Boyer, Musicologist, on
The Jubilee Tour

Horace Clarence Boyer When the Jubilee Singers start their tour, what’s at stake for them?

Boyer : We didn’t have a football team. We didn’t have a basketball team. We didn’t have a debate team. We didn’t have a gospel choir to bring in money. They hadn’t thought, as Mary McLeod Bethune will in 1904, to sell potato pies to bring in money to keep this school going. The students are paying a pittance. The churches are contributing money. Some of the white people who want to see black people educated are making contributions. But that is not enough to keep the school going. If the singers don’t bring back some money, as many of the schools did during that era, the school is going to fold. And so that the singers were having to sing at every opportunity. Sometimes they would sing in churches. They would sing for private parties. They would sing for teas. Sometimes they would ask them to stand on a busy thoroughfare where people were passing, and they’d sing and people would give them money. If they hadn’t been financially successful, the school would have closed. And that would have left all of these students without education, particularly these singers who went on the trip, because by going on the trip, their tuition was going to be paid through this money. So it was a wonderful way not only for the school to remain open, but for the students to make money.

By 1873, the Jubilee Singers had made enough money to begin to build Jubilee Hall at Fisk University, which is the first building for the education of black folk that black people ever paid for themselves. The Jubilee Singers actually raised $100,000 to go back and to purchase that building

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