In August of 1931, Silver Bay hosted the Cotton Blossom Singers from the Piney Woods School. Like the Tuskegee Institute’s quintet and Fisk University’s Jubilee Singers, this was a group sent out in the summers to sing and raise funds for their school.
Founded in 1909, the Piney Woods School provided schooling among poor blacks in rural Rankin County, Mississippi. The school’s founder, Laurence Clifton Jones, escaped lynching only because he was able to convince a group of angry white men that he had not come to preach against them.
In 1923, Jones first sent out the Cotton Blossom Singers on a fundraising tour; in the years to come, he would send out both male and female quartets bearing the name. Also, the Mississippi School for the Blind for Negroes was located at Piney Woods from 1929 to 1951, and among its groups performing spirituals were five blind students who were later known as the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi; their “hard gospel” style of quartet singing, accented by moans, shrieks and wails, influenced soul singers including Ray Charles, James Brown and Wilson Pickett.
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Photo of the Cotton Blossom Singers in 1929 from the Piney Woods School website.