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The Fisk Jubilee Singers in Great Britain: 1900-1903

Frederick Loudin's Fisk Jubilee Singers of 1900

I am currently having a delightful correspondence with a gentleman in Dublin, Ireland, who is a member of the Historical Society of Dublin. As some of you are aware, I have been steadily transcribing letters written by my maternal grandmother, Nina Hortense Clinton, during her travels in Great Britain with the Fisk Jubilee Singers under Frederick Loudin. In a letter written in Dublin in 1901, my grandmother mentions that she and the group were filmed with a "cinematograph." Of course, I am now on a mission to find that footage.

Meanwhile, here is a short promotional article on her letters, which will certainly become a book in the near future.

Frederick Loudin's (center) Fisk Jubilee Singers of 1900

Letters to my Parents from the United Kingdom: 1900-1903

By Nina Hortense Clinton

Edited by Nina Kennedy*

While rummaging through my parents’ belongings after their deaths, I happened upon a

small suitcase containing tied bunches of letters addressed to my great-grandparents,

Martin and Cecelia Clinton of Zanesville, Ohio. The author was their 19-year-old daughter,

my grandmother, Nina Hortense Clinton, who was traveling as a member of the “Fisk

Jubilee Singers” under the direction of Frederick Loudin. Mr. Loudin had been a member of

the original Fisk Jubilee Singers, who toured Europe in 1872 to raise money for the

fledgling Fisk Free Colored School. Although Frederick Loudin was no longer officially

affiliated with the Fisk School from 1879 onward, he continued to take his own group of

singers across the globe, advertising them as the “Fisk Jubilee Singers.”

Fortunately, my grandmother’s handwriting was immaculate. These letters have become

historical documents written from the perspective of a young African-American girl visiting

England, Ireland, and Scotland at the turn of the 20th century, and singing for audiences

who - in many cases - have never seen a black person before. Nina Clinton witnesses the

coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, and writes eloquently about her experiences.

Nina Hortense Clinton

My grandmother, Nina Hortense Clinton

Quotes from Letters to my Parents from the United Kingdom: 1900-1903

by Nina Hortense Clinton

Letter written on the S.S. Rhynland, Sept. 1, 1900

“American Line

S.S. Rhynland

Sept.1, 1900

My Dear Mama & Papa,

Here we are away out in the Ocean, but we have not lost sight of land.

[...] As soon as we came on ship board, we had our state rooms assigned us. Miss Henson** and I are together and the other three ladies are to room together. It is now five minutes of seven and it has not been long since we left the dinner table. I tell you, the eating is fine. I am afraid such fare will spoil me.

[...] It is now Monday A.M. & I am having some difficulty in writing as the vessel is rocking considerably. There is going to be an entertainment on ship board tonight & as I am going to sing a solo, I went into my trunk & got out my green chally dress to wear on this occasion. We expect to have a fine time. Perhaps some of the girls will expect me to write to them while I am on ship board but I think I shall not write anymore until I am on land. I expect to be able to send this letter tomorrow as we shall be at Queenstown. Thursday, we expect to land at Liverpool & will be in London Friday. I hope to find a letter from home. Give my love to all friends. Now, please write soon. I wish you would give my address to some of the girls so that they can write me before they receive my letters. I think Alex might write, too. My love to all.