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Suggestions for the Classroom

Using the Film | Using the Web site

The Web site accompanying "Jubilee Singers: Sacrifice and Glory" provides background about the early history of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. You and your students can use the site to get more information about the individual singers, to study the music of the Jubilee Singers as part of a study of the history and meaning of spirituals, and view a chronology of the singers’ early years. The Web site includes the following sections:

Special Features: Jubilee Songs

    Includes background about early African American music and five musical selections. Students can listen to performances of the songs using real audio and discuss the emotional impact of the music, or review the lyrics as part of an investigation into the history and meaning of spirituals, both as an art form and as a tool for slave resistance and communication. Go to the Jubilee Songs page.

Special Features: A Reading by Andrew Ward

    Andrew Ward reads an excerpt about the early history of the Jubilee Singers from his book, "Dark Midnight When I rise." Students can use this reading as a starting point for their research on the Jubilee Singers, particularly their experience as they toured England. Go to the Reading by Andrew Ward page.


    Provides a chronology of the Jubilee Singers’ early history. Students can use the timeline as a starting point to place the singers’ experiences in the context of the Reconstruction period. Go to The Timeline page.

People and Events

    Features biographies of many of the original Jubilee Singers. These profiles will give students detailed information about the individual singers’ experiences, both before and after they came to Fisk. Students can use them as part of their study of the experiences of African Americans after Emancipation. Go to People and Events page.

Enhanced Transcript

    A transcript of the film with additional information. Useful particularly if you decide not to use the film in your classroom, students can read the transcript as a starting point for deciding what aspects of the Jubilee Singers they would like to do projects on or to think about what questions they still have about the historical context that surrounds the singers’ early experiences. Go to The Enhanced Transcript page.

Interview Transcripts

    Features extended interviews with several of the film’s participants. These transcripts give students the opportunity to see some of the material that ended up "on the cutting room floor" because of time constraints and production choices. Comparing the transcripts to what was included in the actual film can lead to interesting discussions about the choices film producers make, the existence of point of view in documentary film making, and the importance of critical viewing. Go to the Interview Transcript page.

Additional Activities

  1. Have your students listen to the real audio performances of "Jubilee Songs". Discuss with your class what made this music so appealing to audiences: e.g., themes, rhythms, harmonies. Then ask students to bring in music they feel strongly about, whether positively or negatively, and discuss what makes it special to them. Ask students to consider the following: How does the music make them feel? Why? What is the subject of the particular music, and what are the singers'/musicians' attitudes toward the subject? How do they get this attitude across? Do students agree with this attitude? Can this music change moods and/or attitudes? How?

  2. Using the People and Events section, have your class read the biographical sketches of key Jubilee Singers. Then ask students to write entries in a travelogue from the point of view of one of these people. Have students consider historical context, location, chronological point in singing tour, racial tensions, and interpersonal relationships when making entries. Students may use the Timeline and the excerpt from "Dark Midnight When I Rise" for reference to specific events during tours.

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