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    The Jubilee Singers. (1875). Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

Memoirs of Sylvia Olden Lee

Last month, using interlibrary loan, I was able to secure a copy of the book, Memoirs of Sylvia Olden Lee, premier African-American classical vocal coach: who is Sylvia. When I first learned of this book from an interview I read with Sylvia, I thought I would try and actually secure my own copy. However, it is so difficult to find at a good rate and goes for a couple hundred dollars!

So, interlibrary loan would have to suffice. :-) I was interested in the book because I suspected from the article I read that Sylvia provided more details about her ancestors and it turns out that is correct. I came across Sylvia in my research on Nelson & Napoleon Merry – two black preachers of Nashville that were former slaves. I have blogged quite a bit about the Merry family on this blog and my main genealogy blog.

On the cover of the book is a picture of Sylvia and her daughter, in front of the picture of Nelson Merry that is hanging in the church which he was pastor. Sylvia’s daughter went to Vanderbilt and the picture on the cover was taken on her graduation day from Vandy back in the 70s. In the book Sylvia certainly does recount much of her family’s history and I learned quite a bit about the Merry’s.

Some Merry family history tidbits inlclude:

  • Nelson’s mother was Cherokee and with her 11 or 12 kids was forced to walk the Trail of Tears in 1838-39 from South Carolina going west. She stopped in Nashville and declared she wasn’t going any further. Her kids were sold off to various families
  • Nelson was sold to Betsy Merry who willed him to the First Baptist Church when she died
  • Nelson founded the Colored Sunday School Standard, Tennessee’s first Baptist newsletter
  • Nelson’s daughter Liz Merry was one of the First Jubilee Singers, but apparently was not in the famous picture because Nelson did not want her traveling through Europe on tour.

Very interesting book. How great it is that Sylvia’s story is captured.

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1 Comment

  1. Llenn

     /  March 29, 2008

    Taneya,

    Once again, great work!!!!

    Llenn Merry

    Reply

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