John Work, II is said to have been the first black collector of Negro folksongs. He taught at Fisk University and organized Fisk singing groups about 1889. Work published solo songs and choral pieces and in 1915 he published "Folk Songs of the American Negro."
Source: Perkins Holly, Ellistine. Biographies of Black Composers and Songwriters; A Supplementary Textbook. Iowa:Wm. C. Brown Publishers, 1990.