Zora Neale Hurston and the Spiritual Song

Piper Huguley

nypl.digitalcollections.510d47e3-33d6-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.r Zora Neale Hurston was not a fan of the Fisk Jubilee Singers style of singing.

Last week, I was reminded of the strong opinion  Zora Neale Hurston had in her perspective of how spirituals should be sung. For her, things started to go wrong with the Fisk Jubilee Singers. She talks about this in her essay “The Characteristics of Negro Expression”  and blames them for putting forward this folk material in the wrong way. She insists: “I am of the opinion that this trick style of delivery originated with the Fisk Singers: Tuskegee and Hampton followed suit and have helped in spreading this misconception of the Negro spirituals.” She calls their style, “the Glee Club Style.”

As a Zora Neale Hurston scholar, and the daughter of a spirituals scholar, I was always torn by the insistence of her way and from what I knew in what I had grown up with.  I’ve decided, and I…

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