Fisk University will celebrate the 139th anniversary of The Fisk Jubilee Singers ® during its 2010 Jubilee Day Celebration on October 6 beginning at 10 a.m. in the Fisk Memorial Chapel. Jubilee Day commemorates the day that the Jubilee Singers and their director, George L. White, began their historic, inaugural tour to raise funds for the University.
This is the first performance of the 2010-11 Jubilee Singers and is free and open to the public.
The Jubilee Day address will be delivered by Fisk alumna and Children’s Defense Fund New York Executive Director Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan Simpson(’85.) Founded in 1973 by noted attorney and activist Marian Wright Edelman, The Children’s Defense Fund advocates for the protection and development of children in the United States by supporting policies and programs that lift children out of poverty, protect them from abuse and neglect, and ensure their access to health care and quality education.
The organization also conducts research on the effects of federal and state policies on children and their communities. As executive director, Simpson serves as lead advocate on behalf of children to New York’s elected officials, policymakers and communities.
Simpson was a member of The Fisk Jubilee Singers for three years.
“I chose Fisk for lots of reasons, but mostly because I fell in love with the powerful theology of the Negro Spirituals,” Simpson said. “I am still taken by the faith of these songs….Especially now as my work at the Children’s Defense Fund focuses more and more on sounding the alarm about America’s cradle to prison pipeline crisis, these songs continue to provide clarity of mission for me.”
Simpson’s recent sermons, essays and reflections have been included in such publications as Global Black Woman Magazine and The African American Pulpit Journal. After graduating from Fisk University, Simpson earned her Master of Divinity and Doctor of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary and Drew Theological Seminary, respectively. Additionally, Simpson serves as associate pastor of The Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn, NY.
Immediately following convocation, Fisk alumni and friends will make their annual pilgrimage to City Cemetery and Greenwood Cemetery to visit the gravesites of four of the original Jubilee Singers: Ella Sheppard Moore, Mabel Lewis Imes, Georgia Gordon Taylor and Minnie Tate Hall.
The celebration of Jubilee Day occurs annually at Fisk on October 6th. On that day in 1871, the original group of nine students and their music professor, George L. White, began their first tour to raise operating funds for the University. Through their sacrifice and perseverance, the group’s earnings paid for the construction of Jubilee Hall, the first permanent building in America erected for the education of African Americans. During their first tours, the Singers also contributed tour earnings to The Great Chicago Fire victims in 1871 and were invited to perform at The White House by President Ulysses Grant in 1872. In 1873, the group grew to eleven members and performed for the crowned heads of Europe, including Queen Victoria.
Fisk Jubilee Singers
Long recognized as one of America’s foremost a cappella ensembles and as the premier carriers of the Negro Spiritual, The Fisk Jubilee Singers were awarded the National Medal of Arts from the President of the United States in November of 2008. The Medal is acknowledged as the nation’s most prestigious citation for artists and arts patrons.
For nearly a decade students who have earned positions as Jubilee Singers have maintained a graduation rate of 95 percent; many with honors in their major course of study. In addition to their studies, these same students continue to tour the nation and serve as ambassadors for Fisk University.
Founded in 1866, Fisk is Nashville’s first university. Fisk is one of six historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) listed in Forbes Magazine’s 2010 edition of “America’s Best Colleges” and the University has been ranked nineteen consecutive years in The Princeton Review’s “Best 371 Colleges.” U.S. News and World Report ranks Fisk as the seventh best HBCU and as a tier one school among the 1,400 accredited colleges and universities in the nation. Fisk has earned three R & D 100 Awards for work in the creation of radiation detectors developed in collaboration with several national laboratories and private corporations. No other HBCU has earned an R & D 100 Award. According to the National Science Foundation, Fisk produces more African Americans who go on to earn doctoral degrees in the natural sciences than any school in the nation.