Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Harry T. Burleigh Society: Meet Professor Daphne Brooks: Keynote Speaker

Daphne Brooks

Meet Keynote Speaker
Professor Daphne Brooks

Daphne Brooks is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of African American Studies, Theater Studies, American Studies, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University.

How did your entry point into black 
feminist sonic archives lead you to 
inquire about Ella Sheppard?

My path to Ella Sheppard started with 
one of her stunning 
contemporaries, black feminist 
journalist, novelist, uplift activist, 
and former-concert soprano, Pauline 
Hopkins. As editor of the Colored 
 American Magazine, Pauline 
Hopkins covered the concerts of the 
Fisk Jubilee Singers, and she 
eventually wrote a serialized 
novel, the lyrical, pan-Africanist epic 
Of One Blood (1902-3) which traced 
the mystic trials and tribulations 
of a fictional Jubilee singer. What 
 intrigued me most about 
Hopkins’ writing was her passion for 
the music made by Ella 
Sheppard and her fellow luminous 
female vocalists who were 
members of the first pioneering 
troupe (women such as Maggie 
Porter, Jennie Jackson, Mabel 
Lewis and America Robinson). 
Hopkins championed the virtuosic 
complexities of these women’s 
performances and their ability to 
move and sway white audiences 
to advocate for black 
enfranchisement in the face of 
post-Reconstruction racial 
backlash. The kinds of questions 
that I’ve been asking of the archive 
have to do with the quotidian 
details of both Hopkins and 
Sheppard’s respective craft. How 
might we imagine the nuances of 
each woman’s aesthetic 
preparation, the rigor of each 
artist's study and training—to 
write, to compose, to sing and 
perform? Can we even imagine 
how many hours went into 
Sheppard’s rehearsals and 
what those rehearsals entailed? 
Can we envision how many 
composition drafts of 
works-in-progress that she 
produced? Can we conjure 
in our minds the ways that 
these women may have sat 
at their desks, their kitchen 
tables, or on the couch in 
their parlors late into the 
night making art to liberate 
a people? The intimate 
artistic life (to borrow an 
important formulation from 
cultural historian Saidiya 
Hartman) of Ella Sheppard’s 
sonic world is something 
that we might ponder as 
we celebrate her enduring 

More Than the Promise 
of the American Myth: 
Rethinking Burleigh 
& Sheppard in the 
Second Gilded Age

March 3rd, 2019  
May Room - Weill Terrace 
Room, Carnegie Hall
9am - 3pm 
The Harry T. Burleigh 
Society's first academic 
conference considers 
Burleigh's and Sheppard's 
impact on the concert 
spiritual genre, the 
historiographic limits of 
composer biography, 
Black art music 
aesthetics, and the 
liberatory capabilities 
within the work of 
Burleigh, Sheppard, 
and their contemporaries. 
Dr. Daphne Brooks 
will deliver the keynote 
address. Other speakers 
include Dr. Louise 
Toppin, baritone 
Kenneth Overton, Dr. 
Crystal deGregory and 
descendants of Burleigh 
and Sheppard. 

Free and open to 
the public. Registration 

Fisk Jubilee Singers® 

Sing Harry T. Burleigh 


March 2nd 2019
Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall
The Harry T. Burleigh Society 
and the Fisk Jubilee 
Singers® join in a 
historic performance 
celebrating Ella Sheppard 
(1851–1915), an original 
Fisk Jubilee Singer, and 
Harry T. Burleigh (1866–
1949), leaders of the 
concert spiritual 
tradition. The Fisk 
Jubilee Singers® will 
perform the music 
of these under-heard 
cultural leaders, and 
make calls for freedom.

Group ticket sales 
are now available. 
Call the Carnegie 
Group Sales office 
during normal business 
hours at (212) 
903-9705 or 
email them at 
carnegiehall.org for 
$25 tickets in groups 
of 10 or more.

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