Blain Roberts and Ethan J. Kytle are professors of history at California State University, Fresno. They are authors of Denmark Vesey’s Garden: Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy, which was released in paperback by the New Press in 2019. Their writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and elsewhere.
Established in early 1933, the Plantation Echoes were made up of fifty Gullah field hands who enjoyed singing spirituals, most dating back to slavery. A handful of the singers were, in fact, former slaves themselves. Heyward’s praise of the Plantation Echoes was effusive. “The entertainment is not only highly unique but enlightening,” he later remarked. “There is an electrifying quality to the ‘shouting’ and the performers’ ability to shift from one time to another in perfect unison is a revelation.”