Music and Civil Rights

Music played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement, as it still does today.  Activist musicians like folk singer Pete Seeger performed many concerts to raise money for civil rights issues and helped make “We Shall Overcome” become the “National Anthem” of the Civil Rights movement.

African American spirituals, gospel, and folk music played an important role in the movement.   Singers and musicians collaborated with “musicologists” to find songs and music that revealed the culture and values of American blacks.  Music has always been a tool to motivate people, where they are soldiers on the march or groups of people singing. “Onward Christian Soldiers”; a religious anthem with both a religious theme as well as a call to action. 

In 1964 a rally at Jackson, Mississippi to support the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project, three civil rights workers, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney were missing.

Later a message came that said they found their bodies of Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney”:  

There was no anger, shouts and threats of revenge; just lips moving in prayer. Instead they all began to sing:

“O healing river, send down your waters.  Send down your waters upon this land”.


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