A Band of Angels: A Story Inspired by the Jubilee Singers

by Deborah Hopkinson and Raúl Colón

As Aunt Beth tells it, great-great grandmother Ella who had been born into slavery... read more

As Aunt Beth tells it, great-great grandmother Ella who had been born into slavery knew at age fourteen that she could go to a new school for freed slaves in Nashville. After arriving at Fisk School, she found out that her savings would last only three weeks. Like other students, she worked at several jobs in order to stay in school. Once she and her friends in the Fisk Chorus found out how desperate Fisk’s financial situation also was, they agreed to travel up North and sing to earn money for the school to which they had brought their dreams. To please Northern audiences, their first concerts featured popular white songs, but few people came to hear them until the students began singing “old songs,” spirituals from their own tradition. In later years, the Jubilee Singers became famous, even singing at the White House and in England for Queen Victoria. The fictional story is based on facts associated with the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University. Members of the original Jubilee Singers received honorary degrees in1978 from the college for which they had shared so much time and talent. The end pages feature Colón’s captioned portraits of these singers in1871, and his artwork throughout was rendered in watercolor and colored pencil. (Ages 6-11)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2000

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