Chariot in the Sky: A Story of the Jubilee Singers

Chariot in the Sky: A Story of the Jubilee Singers

by Arna Wendell Bontemps
     
 

Written in 1951 by Arna Bontemps, major literary figure of the Harlem Renaissance and close friend of Langston Hughes, Chariot in the Sky tells the story of the Jubilee Singers through the life of a young slave boy, Caleb, who becomes one of their earliest members. Caleb is a teenage slave sent to Charleston, South Carolina, to apprentice a tailor. Through careful…  See more details below

Overview

Written in 1951 by Arna Bontemps, major literary figure of the Harlem Renaissance and close friend of Langston Hughes, Chariot in the Sky tells the story of the Jubilee Singers through the life of a young slave boy, Caleb, who becomes one of their earliest members. Caleb is a teenage slave sent to Charleston, South Carolina, to apprentice a tailor. Through careful listening and observation, Caleb diligently teaches himself to read and write. He also discovers his musical talents and develops into an accomplished singer.

When the Civil War begins, Caleb is sold to a shopkeeper who takes him to Chattanooga, where he becomes smitten with a free black girl and follows her to Fisk University, a new institution for former slaves in Nashville. Here Caleb grows into his new identity as a free man and receives the esteem and respect that he is due. And he becomes a member of the Jubilee Singers, who become musical ambassadors to the world, promoting education for free blacks and raising money for the struggling new Fisk University. Singing mostly spirituals, the Jubilee Singers become so popular with white audiences that they are invited to tour Europe and Great Britain where they perform for Queen Victoria--an honor Caleb could never have imagined as a slave in South Carolina. Chariot in the Sky is the exhilarating story of one boy's transformation from slave to free man.

In the foreword, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Levering Lewis reflects on his experience as a student at Fisk University and the legacy of the original Jubilee Singers. Andrew Ward, author of Dark Midnight When I Rise, a history of the Jubilee Singers, provides a fascinating description of the Jubilee Singers'rise to stardom. His essay is illustrated with photographs, concert posters, and programs of the Jubilee Singers from the archives of Fisk University. spirituals,

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA
Bontemps brings the end of slavery to life through the tale of a single youth, Caleb Willows. Starting with his failed attempt at running away, the story shows him teaching himself and others to read. Finally able to read Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, Caleb finds his freedom bittersweet when he fails to find his parents in the ruins of Charleston. With nothing else to guide him, he makes his way to Nashville and Fisk School for freed slaves. What makes this book so interesting is the underlying theme of black social consciousness. What does Africa mean to a generation that has no memory of it? Singing slave songs is cause for debate among the Jubilee Singers, the choir chosen to save Fisk. Will these songs recall their oppressive past or do they represent the strength of the singers' souls? Singing helps Caleb "turn darkness into day" when the masked riders destroy his country schoolhouse. This novel's breadth is wide, almost too wide for the limited number of pages, making the pace uneven. The descriptions of the Jubilee Singers' tours seem cursory, whereas other events are fully explained. It will, however, engage many readers with reconstruction history as no textbook ever can. Recommend this book to anyone who needs a history lesson in a narrative context. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2002, Oxford University Press, 240p, Reddy-Damon

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780030802164
Publisher:
Holt McDougal
Publication date:
01/01/1971
Pages:
238

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