Uncle Wallace Willis (sometimes Wallis Willis) was a Choctaw freedman living in the Indian Territory, in what is now Choctaw County, near the City of Hugo, Oklahoma. His dates are unclear: perhaps 1820 to 1880. He is credited with composing (probably before 1860) several Negro spirituals. Willis received his name from his owner, Britt Willis, probably in Mississippi, the ancestral home of the Choctaws. He died, probably in what is now Atoka County, Oklahoma, as his unmarked grave is located there.
Prior to the Civil War, Willis and his wife, Aunt Minerva, were sent by their owner to work at the Spencer Academy where the superintendent, Reverend Alexander Reid, heard them singing. In 1871 Reid was at a performance of the Jubilee Singers and thought the songs he had heard the Willises singing were better than those of the Jubilee Singers. He furnished them to the group which performed them in the United States and Europe. Many are now famous.
It is sometimes claimed that the composer of the songs credited to Willis is unknown, but no record exists of any of them prior to the performances by the Jubilee Singers. Text source : Wikipedia (Hide extended text) ... (Read all)