The Fisk Jubilee Singers of Fisk University did not leave the 63rd Grammy Awards empty-handed! In fact, the group was shocked to have won their very first Grammy “Best Roots Gospel Album” for “Celebrating Fisk! (The 150th Anniversary Album).” After 150 years of singing, the win was well deserved! Learn more about the group and the expansive history of the Fisk Jubilee Singers in the article from Dave Paulson at The Tennessean below!

Fisk Jubilee Singers (Credit: Bill Steber)

How’s this for an overdue honor? 

150 years after the original group was founded — and subsequently brought African-American music to the world — Nashville’s Fisk Jubilee Singers have just won their first-ever Grammy Award. 

At Sunday’s pre-telecast “Premiere Ceremony,” the vocal group’s “Celebrating Fisk! (The 150th Anniversary Album)” was named Best Roots Gospel Album, earning them their first Grammy since forming in 1871.

“Hallelujah,” said Dr. Paul Kwami, who has served as the group’s musical director since 1994. 

“I just want to thank God. I thank Shannon Sanders and our wonderful team of engineers. I thank our wonderful guest artists. I thank Curb Records… I’m very grateful to Butch Spyridon and his staff. I thank the Fisk University family. I thank the Ryman Auditorium staff for their wonderful help, and all the fans around the world. Thank you so much, hallelujah.”

When Fisk University treasurer George Leonard White assembled the group in 1871 and booked a tour to raise money for the struggling school, it introduced the world to “slave songs” or “negro spirituals” — music Black Americans made for themselves.

Modern Fisk Jubilee Singers pose in front of a portrait depicting the very first singers of the group (Credit: Cornell Events)

The winning album was recorded live at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium and featured guest artists Ruby Amanfu, Keb’ Mo’, Lee Ann Womack, The Fairfield Four, Rod McGaha, Derek Minor, Shannon Sanders, Rodney Atkins, Jimmy Hall and CeCe Winans.

Backstage, Kwami said he wanted to “honor those original” students who founded the group in 1871. 

“In a way, it’s surprising, it’s the first time we have won a Grammy,” Kwami said in the virtual press room Sunday night. “Sometimes I think it’s because of the music we’re known for, which is the Negro spiritual. Whatever the case, I’m happy this happened in the year we are celebrating our 150th anniversary. It’s an addition to the celebration.”

The Fisk Jubilee Singers were nominated previously for a Grammy in 2009.

Contributing: USA Today’s Bryan Alexander