The Jubilee Singers are credited with introducing the “arranged spiritual”. Critics  claim these arranged versions, with European-style timbre, undermined authentic spirituals. Said Zora Neale Hurston in 1934

“There never has been a presentation of genuine Negro spirituals to any audience anywhere. What is being sung by the concert artists and glee clubs are the works of Negro composers or adaptors based on spirituals.”

John Lovell Jr. disagreed in 1972:

If people were forced to sing the songs the way some arbitrary authority decides or not sing them at all, the spiritual would quickly die. And would be better dead.

This episode was co-written by Anna Kurtz, part of the Sound Beat Class Partnership.

Pictured: The Fisk University Jubilee Singers in 1882