A Freedom Singer Shares The Music Of The Movement

Freedom Singers in 1963 i i

hide captionIn the 1960s, the Freedom Singers, part of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), sang songs of the civil rights movement to audiences across the nation. Pictured, left to right: Charles Neblett, Bernice Johnson, Cordell Reagon and Rutha Harris in 1963.

Joe Alper
Freedom Singers in 1963

In the 1960s, the Freedom Singers, part of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), sang songs of the civil rights movement to audiences across the nation. Pictured, left to right: Charles Neblett, Bernice Johnson, Cordell Reagon and Rutha Harris in 1963.

Joe Alper

This week, the White House programmed a series of evenings celebrating the music that tells the story of America. "In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music From the Civil Rights Movement", a concert celebrating Black History Month, captured the hardships and hopes of those fighting for equal rights in America during the 1960s.

The event brought together numerous guest speakers to showcase readings and songs from the civil rights movement, including legendary Motown singer Smokey Robinson, Bob Dylan and one of the original Freedom Singers, Bernice Johnson Reagon.

Watch the White House concert Thursday on PBS and stream it on NPR Music beginning Friday.

Here, Neal Conan talks with Reagon and her daughter, Toshi Reagon, about the creation, impact and influence of music during the civil rights movement.

Hear some field recordings of the music sung by the Freedom Singers for mass meetings and conferences organized during the civil rights movement below.

A Freedom Singer Shares The Music Of The Movement

Cover for Voices of the Civil Rights Movement Black American Freedom Songs 1960-1966

Freedom Medley: Freedom Chant/Oh Freedom/This Little Light of Mine

  • Artist: Various Artists
  • Album: Voices of the Civil Rights Movement Black American Freedom Songs 1960-1966
  • Song: Freedom Medley: Freedom Chant/Oh Freedom/This Little Light of Mine

The Freedom Singers often engaged in spontaneous singing and medleys, such as this one performed during a conference of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Purchase this music and learn more at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

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  • "Freedom Medley: Freedom Chant/Oh Freedom/This Little Light of Mine"
  • Album: Voices of the Civil Rights Movement Black American Freedom Songs 1960-1966
  • Artist: Various Artists
  • Label: Smithsonian Folkways
 
Cover for Voices of the Civil Rights Movement Black American Freedom Songs 1960-1966

Go Tell It on the Mountain

  • Artist: Various Artists
  • Album: Voices of the Civil Rights Movement Black American Freedom Songs 1960-1966
  • Song: Go Tell It on the Mountain

Songleader and activist Fannie Lou Hamer leads a congregation in the traditional Christmas carol "Go Tell It on the Mountain" at a mass meeting in Greenwood, Miss. She transforms the message of the song into one that heralds the oncoming struggle for civil rights.

Purchase this music and learn more at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

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Purchase Featured Music

  • "Go Tell It on the Mountain"
  • Album: Voices of the Civil Rights Movement Black American Freedom Songs 1960-1966
  • Artist: Various Artists
  • Label: Smithsonian Folkways
 
Cover for Voices of the Civil Rights Movement Black American Freedom Songs 1960-1966

We Shall Overcome

  • Artist: Various Artists
  • Album: Voices of the Civil Rights Movement Black American Freedom Songs 1960-1966
  • Song: We Shall Overcome

This version of the theme song of the civil rights movement, led by Fannie Lou Hamer, closed a mass meeting in Hattiesburg, Miss., in 1964.

Purchase this music and learn more at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

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Purchase Featured Music

  • "We Shall Overcome"
  • Album: Voices of the Civil Rights Movement Black American Freedom Songs 1960-1966
  • Artist: Various Artists
  • Label: Smithsonian Folkways
 

Purchase Featured Music

Voices of the Civil Rights Movement Black American Freedom Songs 1960-1966

Purchase Music

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Purchase Featured Music

  • Album: Voices of the Civil Rights Movement Black American Freedom Songs 1960-1966
  • Artist: Various Artists
  • Label: Smithsonian Folkways
 

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