Before the end of the Civil War, Penn School was founded on the Oaks Plantation. The newly freed slaves were eager to get a Education. Due to the isolation of the Island pior to the building of the first bridge in 1927, and the County not providing transportation, many children were forced to travel by Bateua or walk as much as 9 miles to attend school
The Hallelujah Singers were seen last week on the Good Morning program on ABC-TV.
The program included a portion of a spiritual known around the world "Michael Row the
Boat Ashore", sung in Beaufort's Tabernacle Baptist Church.
This well-known African-American spiritual had its beginning on the Sea Islands of Beaufort District. Northern teachers and missionaries came here during the Confederate War. They heard it sung by the black men who rowed the ferry from the landing at the foot of Carteret Street across the Port Royal (Beaufort) River to the opposite shore of Lady's Island, now known as Whitehall Landing.
Some of the Northerners wrote down the words of the song, as well as the musical notation. Gilbert Chase, in his book, America's Music From the Pilgrims to the Present, wrote: As a result of the activities of the United States Educational Mission to the Port Royal Islands, the first collection of American spirituals was published in 1867 under the title Slave Songs of he United States, edited by in Francis Allen, Charles Ware and Lucy McKim Garrison. Though this collection contains many errors and bears slight evidence of musical scholarship, it yet retains its importance as a primary source.
In a lengthy introduction, Allen wrote, The same songs are used for rowing as for shouting. I know only one pure boat-song, the fine lyric "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" and it being the archangel Michael that is addressed ... On the passenger boat at the (Beaufort) ferry, they rowed from sixteen to thirty strokes a minute twenty-four was the average. Col. Higginson commanded a regiment of black troops stationed on Port Royal Island. He also wrote about the songs he heard sung around the camp fires. As to the composition of these songs, I always wondered whether they had always a conscious and definite origin in some leading mind, or whether they grew by gradual secretion, in an almost unconscious way.
On this point I could get no information, though I asked many questions, until at last, one day when I was being rowed across from Beaufort to Ladies' Island, I found myself, with delight, on the actual trail of a song. One of the oarsmen, a brisk young fellow, not a soldier, on being asked for his theory of the matter, dropped out a coy confession. "Some good spirituals," he said, "are start jess ou o curiosity. I been a-raise a sing myself, one".
Gilbert Chase concluded that the folklorist should be our guide in any folk tradition. It is to the folklorists of the twentieth century that we owe the rediscovery of the negro spirituals, and indeed of virtually the whole body of Negro music, including the remarkable wealth of secular songs of which very little was known previously. The transition from unison to part singing in the Negro spirituals evidently took place in the decades following the Civil War ... The question remains: what were the sources of this tradition? Did it originate with the Negro or did he adopt, it from the white man? ...
Some investigators, notably George Pullen Jackson, Guy B. Johnson, and Newman white, maintain that the Negro spirituals were copies from the white spirituals, that is the religious folk sons of the rural white population.
The opposite theory, upheld by Krehbiel, by Kolinski, by Herzog, and by Waterman, is that the negro spirituals and all Afro-American music in general, embodies traits that are fundamentally of African origin, though blended with Anglo-American elements....... Sterling Brown, in The Spirituals... The Book of Negro Folklore, wrote: A give-and-take seems logical to expect. Correspondence between white and Negro melodies have been established. The complete Africanism of the spirituals was never tenable. The spirituals are obviously not in an African musical idiom, not even so much as the music of Haiti, Cuba, and Brazil. But all of this does not establish the Negro spiritual ... as imitative of white music, or as unoriginal, or as devoid of traces of the African idiom.
The obstinate fact of a great difference between Negro folk-songs and the white camp-meeting hymns exists. Even the strongest adherents of the view that the , origin of the Negro music is in white music, agree that now the spiritual is definitely the Negro's own and, regardless of birthplace, is stamped with originality.
J. McKim, of the Port Royal Relief Society, stated in August 1862 that slave songs were "related to contemporary occurrences". Lucy, his daughter, had come with him to the Sea Islands and complied a "No. 1 collection of Songs of the Freedmen of Port Royal" which was published in November. Eventually, there followed the 1867 Slave Songs of the United States.
In 1979, the Beaufort Council for the Arts received a state grant for presentation of An Evening of Sea Island Music at the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. The Tabernacle Baptist Church Choir sang, with Cleadus Ferguson as director; Rosalie Pazant as accompanist and Alice Wright as narrator. They were assisted by the Ebenezer and St. Joseph choir and the RFP singers. One of their spirituals was Michael Row Boat Ashore
The newly Freedmen were eager to become self-sufficient, but lacked the two main ingredients of a free person, education and land. Ms. Laura M. Towne was sent to St. Helena Island in April, 1862 to establish a school to educate the Freedmen of St. Helena and surrounding Island. Shortly afterwards Ms. Elen Murray joined Ms. Towne, together they founded Penn Normal School. It began as an agriculture school, later Industrial courses were added and Penn Normal School underwent a name change. The new name was Penn Normal Industrial and Agriculture School. Top of Page
During slavery, most slaves were not allowed to Praise the Lord with their "holders" (often referred to as slave masters). Their were exceptions, those that allowed the slaves to attend had balconies. The slaves were allowed to "Praise the Lord" in their own communities, in houses that were appropriately named, "Praise House". At the turn of the century each community had its own Praise house. Religious services were mostly conducted by "leaders". Leaders were the "Elders", or the "Wise" men of the community. In addition to Religious services, community meetings were held to keep the community informed. Many of the Praise houses have disappeared from the landscape, those that remain are either on, or are eligible for the Historic register. Religious Services are now being held in our own houses of Worship. Pictured here is a picturesque, Historical Praise House where services are still being held, it's located on Eddings Point Road. Also pictured is Ebenezer Baptist Church. Ebenezer has one of the largest congregations on St. Helena Island. Ebenezer is located on Martin L. King Jr. Drive.
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