Ella Sheppard Moore (1851-1914)
February 11, 2015
Ella Sheppard, born a slave on Andrew Jackson's Hermitage plantation, was a pianist, teacher and singer.
Her father bought her freedom, but the family fled his creditors by moving to Cincinnati, where Sheppard took piano and voice lessons. After her father's death, Sheppard worked as a music teacher briefly in Gallatin, managing to save just $6 over five months. It was enough to allow her to enroll at Fisk Free School for Blacks, now Fisk University, in Nashville. Fisk's treasurer, George L. White, invited her to become the accompanist for a choral group he planned to send on tour. She accepted, becoming Fisk's first black staff member.
Thus Sheppard accompanied and sang with the school's first Jubilee choir. Its purpose was to raise money for the school. The choir's popularity grew, and eventually the Fisk Jubilee Singers toured throughout America and Europe