Deborah Hopkinson

Award Winning Author of Fiction & Nonfiction for Children & Teens

A Band of Angels

A Band of Angels

What is this book about?

A Band of Angels is fic­tion, but it is based on real events and peo­ple. The char­ac­ter of Ella was inspired by Ella Shep­pard Moore, who was born Feb­ru­ary 4, 1851, in Nashville, Ten­nessee. Her father was able to free him­self and young Ella from slav­ery, but before he could buy free­dom for Ella’s moth­er she was sold away. Ella was raised in Cincin­nati, where she took music lessons. At fif­teen, she was left pen­ni­less when her father died. She arrived at Fisk School in 1868 with only six dollars.

Fisk was opened in 1866 as a school for for­mer slaves and began offer­ing col­lege class­es in 1871. That year, in a des­per­ate attempt to save Fisk from clos­ing, a music teacher named George White set out with a group of stu­dents on a singing tour to raise mon­ey. Although at first they only sang pop­u­lar music of the day, they soon became famous for intro­duc­ing spir­i­tu­als to the world.

Ella Shep­pard was the pianist for the Jubilee Singers on their his­toric con­cert tours, which raised enough mon­ey to save the school and build Jubilee Hall, the first per­ma­nent struc­ture in the South for the edu­ca­tion of black stu­dents. Ella lat­er mar­ried George Moore, had three chil­dren, and locat­ed her moth­er and a sis­ter. She died in 1914. Today her great-grand­daugh­ter is a librar­i­an at Fisk Uni­ver­si­ty who shares the his­to­ry of the Jubilee Singers with visitors.

Although none grad­u­at­ed from Fisk, the orig­i­nal Jubilee Singers were rec­og­nized with hon­orary degrees in 1978. Today, Jubilee Singers at Fisk Uni­ver­si­ty con­tin­ue to keep alive a rich musi­cal tra­di­tion that includes such songs as “Swing Low, Sweet Char­i­ot,” “Many Thou­sand Gone,” and “Go Down, Moses.”

Awards and Accolades

  • Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion Notable Books List
  • Gold­en Kite Award for Pic­ture Book Text



“Scenes of the cho­rus lost in song voic­es raised, eyes closed reveal the courage and heart of these trail­blaz­ing singers.” (Pub­lish­ers Week­ly, starred review)

“This heart­warm­ing pre­sen­ta­tion is not a his­tor­i­cal account, but rather a human look at record­ed facts. A fine read-aloud with a good sto­ry, uplift­ing pic­tures, and fas­ci­nat­ing infor­ma­tion. ” (School Library Jour­nal)

“… the art, done in Colon’s sig­na­ture scratch­board style infused with gold, has the har­mo­ny of the music and the spir­it of the Jubilee songs. The book is cat­a­loged as fic­tion, and the author’s note says the sto­ry is fic­tion but based on real events. From the note it appears that most of the events, if not the dia­logue and the intro­duc­tion of the child Beth and her aunt, are fac­tu­al. An unusu­al top­ic trans­lat­ed into a pleas­ing book.” (Book­list)

A Band of Angels

author, Deb­o­rah Hopkinson
illus­tra­tor, Raúl Colón
Aladdin Books for Young Readers
ages 4 and up, 2002
ISBN 978–0689848872

buy the book