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Music Of The Civil Rights Era

1289 words - 5 pages

The words “civil rights” trigger a sense in the human mind. One of remorse, passion, and hope in a cause worth fighting for. Those weathered by its raging storms refer to it as a turning point in American life after over a century under segregation that can only be described as a necessary silence that African Americans were forced to take on the matter. However, the human mind found itself a way to express those feelings that flowed from its veins. That expression of power and revolt was music. Music acted as the horses that pulled pearlescent chariots of liberty and freedom to the front doors of the White House through public protests, involvement of musical artists, and its impact on the lives and culture of those who were oppressed. As a person against “civil rights”, it was viewed as a very simple matter, the music of the era was the devil’s work and needed to be stopped. Those approving of “civil rights” just pushed the activists further and further to the freedoms they believed that African Americans deserved.
A major situation in which the music was used was massive protests on public property called sit-ins. Sit-ins were protesting strategies by African Americans during the Civil Rights Era where they would sit in on diners, bathrooms and “public” locations that they weren’t allowed and wouldn’t leave until they were given equality or service. During these protests, African Americans would sing songs of freedom and good times ahead and would adapt these songs from past songs of slavery and inequality were revived and reused from before (Stewart). Many white Americans would discriminate those doing this to try to diminish their morale on the right, but as a response the African Americans would continue to sit and sing songs like “We Shall Overcome” by Mahalia Jackson, which became the unofficial anthem of the African Americans of the decade (Stewart).
Songs of freedom and breaking away from oppression were also seen in movements of African American and white “civil rights” activists called marches which had a very similar effect like that of the sit-ins.
During the Civil Rights Movement, marches of those who wanted equal rights occurred around the country. One of the most famous marches was known as the March on Washington, which was when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream Speech”. What many people don’t realize is that the music sang by the activists had a major impact on the march and even Washington itself (Stewart). Many activists would march through the streets singing songs from battle and getting through oppression, but they would sing the lyrics with a non-violent connotation to show that they could get what they deserved without the lives of innocent people needing to be lost at all (Daniels). During marches in Alabama from Selma to Montgomery, activists would sing their non-violent lyrics and songs of slavery without hurting anyone, but Alabama State Troopers in Selma, Alabama violently massacred the activists...

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