Robert S. Duncanson: An Antebellum African American Artist

September 5–December 8, 2012

Supplementary Exhibition Materials
The following musical selections are representative of musical styles that would have been familiar to Robert S. Duncanson and his circle. This exhibition "soundtrack" was developed with the generous collaboration of Dr. Kevin Fellezs, Assistant Professor of Music (IRAAS/Ethnomusicology).

All over this world

Fisk Jubilee Singers (formed in 1866); 1920 Edison roll recording

The Fisk Jubilee Singers are notable for introducing the spirituals of the black church to white audiences. Their hugely successful public performances directly challenged the prevailing stereotypes perpetuated by blackface minstrelsy. "All over this world" is a traditional "Jubilee" spiritual which looks forward to a better world in which "weeping and moaning will soon be over with." The lyrics also suggest freedom from slavery is imminent.

Harry Burleigh's (1866-1949) arrangement of Deep River

Performed by Marian Anderson, contralto (1897-1993); recorded 1928 (arrangement earlier)

Harry Burleigh was a formally trained musician who arranged spirituals for solo voice in settings similar to lieder, or art song. This recording by African American contralto, Marian Anderson, is a moving expression of the longings black slaves invested in the spiritual. The lyrics speak to their desire for "that Promised Land, where all is peace."

Francis Johnson (1792-1844), La Sonnambula Quadrille, c.1817

Performed by Judith Plant and the Federal Music Society, recorded c. 1978

Francis "Frank" Johnson was the first African American composer to have his works published as sheet music. A virtuoso on the cornet, bugle and violin, he led his own dance orchestra, performing a wide range of music from operatic airs and military marches to dance music such as the quadrille heard here. Johnson introduced the promenade concert to America after a tour of Europe. La Sonnambula Quadrille is a fine example of nineteenth century social dance music.

Little Eva; Uncle Tom's Guardian Angel, 1852

Composed by Manuel Emilio and most respectfully dedicated to Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe's influential abolitionist novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) was the source for numerous cultural works in the years that followed its publication. Theatrical presentations, poems, and artworks all drew inspiration from its text. In 1853 James Conover, a wealthy abolitionist commissioned Robert S. Duncanson to paint a scene from the book.

This musical composition is another example of the author's influence. The piece was originally published with lyrics by the poet John Greenleaf Wittier:

Dry the tears for holy Eva,
With the blessed angels leave her,
Of the form so sweet and fair
Give to earth the tender care.
For the golden locks of Eva,
Let the sunny southland give her
Flowery pillow of repose,
Orange bloom and budding rose.
Orange bloom and budding rose.

All is light and peace with Eva,
There the darkness cometh never,
Tears are wiped and fetters fall,
And the Lord is all in all.
Weep no more for happy Eva,
Wrong and sin no more shall grieve her,
Care and pain and weariness,
Lost in love so measureless.
Lost in love so measureless.

Gentle Eva loving Eva,
Child confessor, true believer,
Listen'r at the Master's knee,
"Suffer such to come to me,"
Of for faith like thine, sweet Eva,
Lighting all the solemn river,
And the blessing of the poor
Wafting to the heavenly shore.
Wafting to the heavenly shore.