Home Equipping Leaders African American Celebrating Black History Month #17

Celebrating Black History Month #17

There is one sense in which most music that comes from the African American and Africana experience might be regarded as Freedom Songs. The African diaspora and the enslavement and persecution that followed made it inevitable that a central theme of Africana music would be hope, liberation, and freedom. It is present in much of the solo, choral, and congregational song.

But there is the specific genre of this music known as Freedom Songs or Liberation Songs. This is music that specifically came out of the struggle for equality and civil rights in the U.S.A., South Africa, and other parts of the world. This is the music that was born from the battle against segregation, apartheid, discrimination, inequality, and persecution. This battle, at least on the part of African Americans, was non-violent. That is not to say it was a passive and peaceful resistance. On the contrary, even in the face of beatings, lynchings, taunting, shootings, bombings, cross burnings, fire hoses, and dogs, there was resistance that was active, aggressive, and confrontational. And in the middle of it all, there was music and there was singing.

Bernice Johnson Reagon, in an interview with PBS's Maria Daniels on WGBH in Boston in July 2006, made the point that music bathed the entire protest movement for freedom and equality. Wherever and whenever they gathered, they sang. They sang old hymns ("What a Fellowship," "Onward Christian Soldiers"); they sang newer songs; they sang spirituals; and they sang newly improvised songs and adaptations of old songs that sprang from the movement.

Read more about music in the Civil Rights Movement at "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize."

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