Director: Dr. Baruch Whitehead
The mission of the Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers of Ithaca, New York is to the preserve the uniquely American art form of the formal concert style “Negro Spiritual.” We welcome all people regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual preference, political views or socio-economic status. Our singers share a common love of this amazing body of music and our fervent belief that this music still carries the power to bring social justice to our world.
The group is named in honor of civil rights pioneer Dorothy Cotton, a resident of Ithaca, New York, who served as education director for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference along side Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and continues to spread her message of freedom and hope to people around the world through music.
Established in 2010, the Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers is patterned after the famous Fisk Jubilee Singers, a group of ex-slaves who were students at the Fisk School of Nashville Tennessee and knew the traditional slave songs of their people. Fisk was established in 1866 for the education of the recently freed African-Americans-barely six months after the end of the Civil War. Although, the first students ranged in age from seven to seventy, all shared the common experiences of slavery and poverty — and an extraordinary thirst for learning. These students also shared the experience of singing these remarkable songs to try and ease the crushing yoke of slavery.
In 1871 when the school was in terrible financial straits, George L. White, Fisk treasurer and music professor, created a nine member choral ensemble as a fund raising effort to keep the fledgling school’s doors open. The group toured nationally and internationally eventually singing before the crowned heads of 19th century Europe. Through their performances over a ten-year period, the Jubilee Singers raised over $100,000.000 and kept the doors to the university open.
The Negro Spiritual has an honored place in American History as the voice of a uniquely American experience-the perseverance and triumph of an oppressed people through its indomitable spirit and incomparable ability to sing through its anguish with steadfast faith to a God above with a joy and sorrow unparalleled in our history. It is our mission to raises our voices once again in these words and harmonies and reach for these redemptive powers in our own times.
DCJS Press Release
The Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers
P. O. Box 61
Ithaca, NY 14851-0061
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