March 23, 2018

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Give Me Wings: How a Choir of Former Slaves Took on the World by Kathy Lowinger | SLJ Review

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GiveMeWingsLOWINGER, Kathy. Give Me Wings: How a Choir of Former Slaves Took on the World. 148p. chron. ebook available. further reading. index. maps. photos. reprods. Annick. Sept. 2015. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781554517473.
Gr 7 Up–Readers learn the story of Ella Sheppard and the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University. Born a slave, Sheppard survived the Civil War and eventually enrolled in Fisk Free Colored School (now Fisk University) in Nashville, TN. However, this underfunded school for newly freed blacks floundered within a few years. In order to raise money, George White, Fisk’s treasurer and music teacher, organized a choir with Ella Sheppard as his assistant and took them on tour. Meeting with only minor success at the outset, the choir hit their stride when they began singing the old slave songs we now call spirituals. Eventually, they toured Europe, even singing for Queen Victoria, and raised enough money to build Jubilee Hall, which still stands on the Fisk campus. Interwoven with Ella’s story are details of the dehumanizing institution of slavery and the immediate postwar years as experienced by African Americans and their advocates, as well as pictures and primary-source excerpts. Lowinger does not shy away from the more unpleasant aspects of that history and grounds it in the very human and relatively little-known story of Sheppard and the Jubilee Singers, which makes the struggle all the more touching and real. VERDICT Recommended for all libraries, this excellent title will be especially useful in collaboration with school curricula.–Katherine Koenig, The Ellis School, PA

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s August 2015 issue.