Written in 1951 by Arna Bontemps, major literary figure of the Harlem Renaissance and close friend of Langston Hughes, Chariot in the Sky tells the story of the Jubilee Singers through the life of a young slave boy, Caleb, who becomes one of their earliest members. Caleb is a teenage slave sent to Charleston, South Carolina, to apprentice a tailor. Through careful listening and observation, Caleb diligently teaches himself to read and write. He also discovers his musical talents and develops into an accomplished singer.
When the Civil War begins, Caleb is sold to a shopkeeper who takes him to Chattanooga, where he becomes smitten with a free black girl and follows her to Fisk University, a new institution for former slaves in Nashville. Here Caleb grows into his new identity as a free man and receives the esteem and respect that he is due. And he becomes a member of the Jubilee Singers, who become musical ambassadors to the world, promoting education for free blacks and raising money for the struggling new Fisk University. Singing mostly spirituals, the Jubilee Singers become so popular with white audiences that they are invited to tour Europe and Great Britain where they perform for Queen Victoria--an honor Caleb could never have imagined as a slave in South Carolina. Chariot in the Sky is the exhilarating story of one boy's transformation from slave to free man.
In the foreword, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Levering Lewis reflects on his experience as a student at Fisk University and the legacy of the original Jubilee Singers. Andrew Ward, author of Dark Midnight When I Rise, a history of the Jubilee Singers, provides a fascinating description of the Jubilee Singers' rise to stardom. His essay is illustrated with photographs, concert posters, and programs of the Jubilee Singers from the archives of Fisk University. spirituals,