Part 4 of the Writings of Leota Henson Turner

Frederick J. Loudin and Leota Henson, Belfast Ireland, 1886

I have found much material online about the Jubilee Singers' tour of Australia and New Zealand, including a chapter in the book Out of Sight: The Rise of African American Popular music, 1889-1895 by Lynn Abbott and Doug Seroff, and an excerpt from Uncle Tom in the White Pacific by Melissa Bellanta.

In this segment of Leota's writings she often speaks of her uncle who is Frederick J. Loudin, director of the group called Loudin's Jubilee Singers.

Continued from Part 3.

       "One bright morning a few weeks later we landed all safe and sound in Melbourne, Australia and we were glad to be on land once more, even though we were on the other side of the globe. We found Melbourne a lively bustling city, the buildings and activities much like our own American cities. The weather was warm and bright. Our advance agent, Mr. Sharp, had secured very nice accommodations at the Grand Hotel. After two weeks of rest and rehearsals we gave our first concert, which was a Private Complimentary Concert. Printed invitations were sent to the most prominent people in the city. The newspaper men were also there. The result was that we had an audience of about two hundred people. After the program was finished there was a social hour and tea was served. The next day the newspaper came out with a fine account of the program and after that our concert dates came in thick and fast. We visited every town of any size in Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania. The climate has two seasons, the hot, dry, and the rainy season. There is a tree there that shed its bark instead of its leaves, and a cherry tree that has the stone on the outside. The wood of many of the trees is very beautiful, such as the Black Wood and Honey-Suckle. My uncle bought a number of logs of those woods and had them sent home to America by a sailing vessel. Among the animals, the Kangaroo is the most unusual. It stands about 8 ft. in height, and its hind legs and the tail are big and very strong, and it hops along 15 to 20 feet at a time. Its front feet are quite short and its back ones are covered with fur and there is a big pouch on its belly where its young is carried. Another unusual arrival is the Duck Billed Platypus. It is about the size of a cat and has a bill like a duck, thick fur on its back, and a flat tail. Its front feet are webbed, and hind feet have claws, and it is said to have internal ears. My uncle also purchased some huge clam shells which weighed about 150 lbs. a piece, and they come from Torres Strait.
       We found the natives of New Zealand very interesting. In looks they are much like our American Indians. Their mode of salutation is quite unusual. When they meet they clasp your hand and draw their faces close together and rub noses. The scenery in New Zealand is very beautiful and interesting. One of the most beautiful bits of scenery is the Otira Gorge which is renowned for its beauty. One evening after one of our concerts which was given at Brisbane, which is in the northern part of Australia, a gentleman introduced himself to me and told me his name was Henson, the same as mine, and that he thought he was a cousin of my father's. He had come out to Australia during the Gold Rush and had never returned to America. He came to see me several times and gave me some small nuggets of gold, also a gold chain and locket made from some of the gold he had mined.
       After spending three and a half years in the Australian Colonies, we decided to return to America by the way of India, China, and Japan. Our first stop was at Colombo, which is on the Island of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). As soon as the steamer docked, dozens of little Indian children came running down to meet the steamer and began diving in the water for pennies which the passengers would throw into the water. It was quite a sight to see them dive into the water and in a few minutes see them come to the surface with the coins in their teeth. As the steamer remained there all day, we went ashore and visited the Botanical Gardens. We saw the Coconut Palms, the Traveler's Palms, the leaves of which always point north and south, the bread fruit trees, pepper bushes, tea bushes, nutmeg trees, rubber trees whose roots lay in ridges all around the trunk on the ground; also the Banyon trees whose branches droop so they touch the ground and form roots again."

In the next article you will read of the group's adventures in India, Burma, Japan, and their return through U.S. Customs in San Francisco.


  1. Dear Ms Kennedy
    Fascinating information! but it is frustrating that I discover your material from Leota Henson just as I am in the final throes of completing my book on African American entertainers in Australasia, with a tight publishers deadline. My book covers the Loudin Fisk Jubilee Singers activities in Australia and New Zealand between May 1886 and October 1889, in quite some detail. Ms Henson was there for the full time.
    I am particularly interested in the photo of Frederick Loudin and Leota Henson as the photos I currently have are of the troupe in earlier times, with Ella Sheppard as the accompanist. Any other images of the troupe that went to London and Australia would also be of interest.
    I can be contacted by e-mail at wegan [at], or through my web site at:

    Please let me know if you are interested in pursuing this further

    Best wishes

    Bill Egan

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