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Fri, 01.01.1836

Frederick Loudin, Choral Conductor, and Businessman born

Frederick Loudin

*Frederick Loudin was born on this date in c.1836.  He was a Black vocalist and choral director. 

Frederick Jeremiah Loudin was born to free parents in Charlestown, Ohio.  His family moved to rural Ohio from Burlington, VT to be farmers, but when they learned that, although they had made regular financial contributions to Hiram College, their son would not be allowed to enter their preparatory program, they removed their children from the school and enrolled them in school in Ravenna, Ohio.  

Young Frederick excelled in his studies and was therefore eligible for a privileged seat in the class. Many white parents took offense with this occurrence and pulled their children out of school, rather than have a "Negro" sit in a seat of honor they felt their children deserved based on skin color, rather than merit.  Loudin continued as a strong student and in his late teens began apprenticing for a printer.

When asked to take over the literary department of the abolitionist newspaper for which he worked, Loudin elected to remain a typesetter since he did not fully share the views of the paper's editor. Discouraged when he discovered that other white printers were unwilling to do business with him, Loudin gave up printing altogether.  The racism he experienced extended in the Methodist church he had joined in Ravenna, Loudin which prohibited him from singing in the choir.  

While in his early 20s, Loudin moved to Pittsburgh where he met and married Harriet Johnson. Four years later, the couple moved to Memphis. Music played a large part in Loudin's life: teaching, learning the organ and leading a choir. When a friend told him about the Jubilee Singers, he wrote to George White. White, who was looking for a baritone, came to Memphis to hear Loudin sing. He invited him to join his choir.  As the oldest member of the Jubilee Singers, forged a strong relationship with George White over the next few years while touring Europe. A bitter rival of Ella Sheppard, he also fell out with Erastus Milo Cravath, Fisk’s president, over the Jubilees’ rights to rest and salary.

In 1879, after the Jubilee Singers disbanded, Loudin and White reorganized the choir together, calling it the Fisk Jubilee Singers for the sake of name recognition though the group was no longer associated with Fisk University. After White was injured while directing the troupe at Chautauqua, New York, the group continued on a two-year tour of the U.S. and Canada, under Loudin's direction.  In 1884 Loudin launched a six-year world tour. As sole director of the choir, Loudin became particularly careful about selecting his singers. As a group now purely composed of and run by Blacks, it was important to Loudin that no character flaws could be pointed to as proof of their inferiority. Loudin led his choir globally and finally across the American West.

The success of this tour Loudin and his singers earned enough to settle comfortably upon their return was partly due to its management by Loudin's wife, who had traveled with him since his Jubilee Singers days. After returning to his hometown of Ravenna, Ohio and building his family a house, Loudin continued to tour with his troupe for the next twelve years. In addition to meeting the demands required by his career as a singer and choir director, Loudin somehow found time for political and business pursuits.

In the 1890s, after returning from his world tour, Loudin became the owner of two shoe manufacturing companies and patented two inventions. In 1879, and again in 1893, he served as a delegate to a national conference of black men. He joined in advocating for the representation of Blacks at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Loudin also maintained his relationship with Fisk throughout his life sending the school regular updates on his choir's work abroad and visiting the school whenever he could though he was never a student at Fisk or any other college.  On November 17, 1892 the F.J. Loudin Boot and Shoe Manufacturing Company was dedicated in Ravenna, Ohio. By April 1893 the company was employing an integrated staff of nearly 70 men. This in and of itself was a revolutionary act in Ravenna of the 1890s. Their workers were making 300 shoes/day, under the Loudin brand.  The staff and the shareholders were integrated, as well, but in the end none of this was able to help the company stay afloat.

Within one year of opening the company was bankrupt and had to close up shop. During this time Loudin’s Fisk Jubilee Singers were on tour under the direction of their choir director cum businessman.  Frederick Loudin was at the height of his creative abilities, as exemplified by the two inventions for fasteners which he patented during this period of time.  Loudin had a heart attack while on tour in Scotland during the fall of 1902. He died in Ravenna on November 3, 1904.  



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