Fisk University Works To Move Past Cash-Strapped History

The Fisk Jubilee Singers famously saved Fisk University in Nashville from financial ruin 150 years ago. The historically black university is now hoping to move past its cash-strapped reputation. It's been 150 years since Fisk University opened in Nashville to educate freed slaves after the Civil War. The school's later students would become prominent black leaders of the Harlem Renaissance and the civil rights movement. But the small school is still grappling with a dilemma that's been there since the start: how to become financially sustainable. Fisk is perhaps most widely known for its music, but that legacy is intertwined with money. Just five years after the Fisk Free Colored School was founded in 1866, Congress stopped funding black colleges. Historian Reavis Mitchell says money dried up. "When the school reached the point of less than a dollar left in the treasury, when there was no hope, a student chorus was put together in the fall of 1871," he says. That chorus of nine students called the Fisk Jubilee Singers set out on its first national tour. "They would present themselves — some the children of slaves, a few enslaved themselves — and the world was astonished by these young people from this place called Fisk," Mitchell says....

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