Monday, May 7, 2012

John Malveaux: '107th U.S. Colored Infantry Band at Fort Corcoran, Arlington, Virginia'

John Malveaux of writes of these images from the Library of Congress:

107th U.S. Colored Infantry Band
at Fort Corcoran. Arlington, Virginia, November 1865.

Library of Congress
Reproduction Number: LC-B8171-7861 (4-6) 

This view of the defenses of the Washington, D. C., area shows a group of twenty African American soldiers with musical instruments. Blacks served in various capacities in the Union army. At first Union leaders allowed no black men to be commissioned officers, but eventually they served as noncommissioned officers, doctors, and chaplains. The first African American field officer was Major Martin Delany. 

The Spirituals: Early Publication
The long journey of the African American spiritual begins in slavery. It first emerges into print during the Civil War, when "contrabands" sang their songs to Northern musicians who transcribed and harmonized the melodies. "Down in the Lonesome Valley" and "Go Down, Moses" were two of the spirituals actually published with music during the Civil War. The sheet music for "Down in the Lonesome Valley" published four verses of the song as sung by the freedmen of Port Royal, with some additions written by the compiler. Through publication, the spiritual had already begun its journey from being a purely African American genre to a musical form appreciated by a wide audience. 

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