GEORGIA GORDON TAYLOR (1855-1913)
Georgia Gordon Taylor, a native Nashvillian, was an original
Fisk University Jubilee Singer. She entered Fisk in 1868 and remained a
student in the literary department. She took music lessons from George
L. White before becoming a Jubilee Singer in 1872. Georgia was among the
first group of singers to tour the United States and Europe in 1872-73,
when the Jubilee Singers appeared before Queen Victoria in England. After
returning to America, Georgia married the Reverend Preston Taylor, founder
of Greenwood Cemetery and Lea Avenue Christian (Disciples of Christ) Church.
In 1978, Georgia Gordon Taylor was posthumously awarded a bachelor's degree
by Walter Leonard, president of Fisk University. Georgia Gordon was eighteen
years old when she went
to Europe in 1873. She sits in a Victorian chair with her feet on a footstool
at the extreme right of the oil painting by Haverhill, Queen Victoria's
artist-friend, who was so fascinated with the Jubilee Singers' music that
he offered his services free of charge to the Queen to paint the group's
portrait. This famous oil portrait now hangs in the Appleton Room of Jubilee
Hall on Fisk University's campus.
Georgia was born in 1855 in Nashville, Tennessee, to a mulatto mother, Mercy Duke Gordon (1833-1890), and a slave father, George Gordon (1830-1870). Mercy's mother was white, and the law required that children of free mothers were free. Between 1620 and 1820, most American mulattoes had white mothers and black fathers. Mercy had another child, Elwina, born in 1848 and fathered by a white man (a "Doctor Warner") before she married the black slave, George Gordon. It also was common for slaves and free blacks to marry each other. Free blacks comprised nearly twenty-two percent of Nashville's population by 1860, and mulattoes (persons of black and white parentage) made up more than half of the town's free Negroes. Some slaves, perhaps like George Gordon, were quasi-independent persons, who were allowed to live in their free spouse's household, hire out their own time, and pay part of their wages to their owner. Because Mercy was a free person, all of her children were born free, even though Georgia's father was a slave. Mercy and George had two children: Governor B. (1853-1870) and Georgia.
Georgia married Preston Taylor (1849-1931) and had one child, Preston G. Taylor (1890-91); she was broken-hearted over the death of her seven-month-old son. She became her husband's constant companion, but she gave freely of her singing ability as a soprano soloist throughout Nashville's black community.
Following her death in 1913, Georgia Gordon Taylor was buried in Nashville's Greenwood Cemetery on Elm Hill Pike, where a magnificent and beautiful monument marks her resting place. A plaque denotes that she was an original Jubilee Singer, and her experiences with the Jubilee Singers are well documented in the Special Collections section of the Fisk University Library.
Emma W. Bragg