Carolina Singers, Odd Fellows’ Hall
Harrisburg, May 26, 1873
the Civil War, African American choral groups toured the United States and
Europe, performing traditional African American spirituals, work songs, and
other works. The groups were often composed of former slaves, and were
frequently sponsored by northern societies. One such group, The Jubilee Singers
of Fisk University, is perhaps the most well known. Beginning as a fundraising
concept in 1867, the Jubilee Singers popularized and helped to preserve
traditional African American vocal works, presenting them to northern audiences
who were hearing them for the first time.
Carolina Singers toured the United States in the mid-1870’s, spending several
months performing in Philadelphia and coming to Harrisburg, where they sang at the
African American Odd Fellows’ Hall, in Tanners’ Alley, on May 26, 1873.
They performed under the direction of Rev. W. Richardson, of Fairfield
Presbytery in South Carolina, and proceeds from ticket sales were to go toward
the erection of a new school building there. This
carte de visit was probably sold at the event as an additional fundraising
means. It is inscribed on the reverse, in handwritten pencil, with the place and
the Afrolumens Project collection. Please click the picture for a larger
One of the
performers, Christine Rutledge, wrote down the group's repertoire in a circa
1873 publication, Spirituelles, (Unwritten Songs of South Carolina), Sung by
the Carolina Singers, During Their Campaigns in The North, in 1872-73, Written
for the First Time, from Memory, by Christine Rutledge, (One of the Singers).
This book, published in Philadelphia by Henry Acker, listed the spirituals that
the group was performing on their tours, and most likely were the same songs
that the Harrisburg audience in the Odd Fellows Hall heard.
Rutledge, the Carolina Singers performed the following folk and gospel songs,
which were popular in their native South Carolina : The Gospel Train, Steal
Away, Soul Says to the Body, Where Shall I Go?, Going to Write to Master Jesus,
Rise Christians, Shout Independent, Keep Me From Sinking Down, O Sinner Man,
Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Roll Jordan Roll, No More Horn Blow Here, Sweet Turtle
Dove, Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel, Go Down Moses, Resurrection Morning.
An advertisement for one of their early Philadelphia
appearances gives an interesting glimpse into their image:
CONCERT OF THE CAROLINA SINGERS.
Will be "REPEATED." With additional Choice Selections,
AT SEVENTH ST. PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.
Seventh St. below Bainbridge.
Wednesday Evening, February 5, 1873.
The Troupe will Consist of Two
MALES and Five FEMALES,
All of whom were formerly Slaves.
Come and hear them Sing the Popular
SPIRITUALS and Plantation
Songs of the South, as only
Slaves can sing Them.
ADMISSION 25 Cts., Children 15 Cts.
Among the persons listed as ticket agents
in Philadelphia were Sarah H. Bustill (the wife of Joseph Bustill), Caroline
White (the wife of Jacob C. White), James Down, George B. White, Hannah Clay, Robert Adger
(African American abolitionist, Philadelphia merchant, born into slavery in
South Carolina), Elizabeth Thomas,
and the Christian Recorder office. A May 1873 article about the group
listed their membership as having three males and five females, matching the
composition of the singing group in the picture above.