Go Tell It On The Mountain - TRANSCRIPT
No one knows who wrote the Go Tell It On The Mountain. The song dates at least to 1865 and the lyrics were handed down orally through generations of American Slaves. Some people even believe that words seeker and watchmen, refer to coded messages for slaves seeking passage to freedom on the underground railroad. The song would likely have been lost to history, except for the work of an early African American University called Fisk.
Established barely six months after the end of the Civil War, Fisk University, was dedicated to “equal educational privileges and equal rights.” The campus was built on the site of a former Union Army barracks in Nashville, Tennessee.
By 1871 Fisk was struggling to find funding to keep the college open, when George L White, the schools treasurer and music director, came up with a fundraising idea... a choir comprised of students he’d heard singing the old spirituals on campus.
He received reluctant permission from school administrators, and after rehearsing through summer break, the Fisk Jubilee Singers left Nashville on a fundraising tour. It was October 6th, 1871.
In a time when few people traveled more than a few miles from home, The Jubilee Singers toured the world, performing for Queen Victoria, Ulysses S Grant, Mark Twain, and the Crowned Heads of Europe and Australia.
On May 4th, 1872 the Jubilee Singers returned home with $20,000 toward the construction of Jubilee Hall. By 1878 they had raised $150,000, introduced African American Spirituals to the world, and the future of their college was secure.
To this day, Fisk University marks October 6th, as Jubilee Day, with a memorial concert in memory of the original choirs’ departure on their campaign to raise twenty thousand dollars. Jubilee Day concludes with a trip to the grave sites of the original choir members where the current Jubilee Singers sing the songs their predecessors made famous to preserve their university.
One of their featured songs... “Go Tell It On The Mountain.”