Wednesday, November 7, 2001

See the Chesapeake through Ebony Eyes: Chantey Singers Share the Black Heritage of the Bay

Chestertown, MD, November 7, 2001 — Washington College's Center for the Environment and Society and Center for Black Studies present "Ebony Eyes and Voices on the Chesapeake," Thursday, November 15, 2001, at 8 p.m. in the College's Norman James Theatre, William Smith Hall. The event is free and the public is invited to enjoy an evening of song and history of the African Americans on the Chesapeake Bay.
Although a little known tradition today, much like gandy dancers on American railroads, singing was used by the black fishermen of the Chesapeake to coordinate their work on the Bay's menhaden boats. In the early 1990s, a group of retired menhaden fishermen from Virginia formed the Northern Neck Chantey Singers to preserve this musical tradition and to recreate for public audiences the traditional worksongs that the all-black menhaden crews sang. The Singers met with immediate acclaim from area residents of the Northern Neck of Virginia for whom chanteys were a distinctive regional tradition.
The Singers' performances generated public demand for a recording of these songs, so in 1993 they recorded "See You When the Sun Goes Down: Traditional Worksongs of Virginia Menhaden Fishermen." Revenues from sale of the cassette are divided equally by the Reedville (VA) Fishermen's Museum and the Northern Neck Chantey Singers. For more information on the Singers, visit online.
The Singers will be joined by Vincent O. Leggett, president of the Blacks on the Chesapeake Foundation and author of two books, Blacks on the Chesapeake and The Chesapeake Bay Through Ebony Eyes. Since 1984, Mr. Leggett has worked to document and to preserve the history of African Americans living and working in the Chesapeake Bay's maritime and seafood industries, and has organized exhibits and delivered lectures throughout the region.
The Singers also will appear Wednesday, November 14, 2001, at 7:30 p.m. in the Historic Avalon Theatre in Easton, MD, as part of the 2001 Eastern Shore Lecture Series "Journeys Home: People, Nature and Sense of Place," a subscription series co-sponsored by the Center for the Environment and Society, the Adkins Arboretum, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, the Horsehead Wetlands Center, and the Maryland Center for Agroecology. To learn more about this or other events sponsored by the Center for the Environment and Society, visit the center online at or call 410-810-7151.

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