Songs of the Civil Rights Movement

The civil rights movement in America in the 1950’s and 1960’s boasted a wide array of musical anthems (Hartford, 2011). The elevated role of music in the movement came naturally as music is so engrained into the African-American culture (Reagon, n.d.). Folk artists rose above others in popularity with their politically charged lyrics and messages. Though these songs gained popularity on the entertainment front, the most influential music was the freedom songs. Freedom songs are less performance focused and require active participation. They are less focused on the quality of the sound and put great emphasize on the chorus of an entire body engaging with the music through singing. These songs would be sung in a variety of settings encompassing the civil rights movement. It was common to sing freedom songs at prayer vigils, sit-ins, and marches. They were sung to build unity and boost courage among those in attendance at these events. At marches, the songs filled an even more practical role as “the beat of the songs set the rhythm of our feet” (Hartford, 2011). Though the quantity of song linked with the civil rights movement is vast, there are a few that stand out with extra importance to the cause (Ward, n.d.).

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