Civil Rights and Rhythm and Blues | National Humanities Center

Humanities in Class: Webinar Series

Civil Rights and Rhythm and Blues

Charles McGovern (Fellow, 2013–14)

May 6, 2015

When we think of the soundtrack of the 1960s civil rights movement, we tend to think of folk anthems. Some, like “We Shall Overcome,” were staples of movement rallies. Others, like “If I Had a Hammer” and “Blowin’ in the Wind,” transcended the rallies to become pop hits. But black popular music has had a much longer engagement with the freedom struggles of African Americans dating back to the dawn of recorded sound. By the time the civil rights movement accelerated in the mid-1960s, not only folk anthems but black pop music itself served the movement. We explore familiar hits as well as unheard gems that marked the union of black music and politics. In addition to the Freedom Singers, Odetta and Harry Belafonte, we explore soul, jazz, and rhythm and blues. Join us to find out what was goin’ on.


Music / History / American Civil Rights Movement / African American Music / Blues Music /