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The goal for equal rights by jazz music

  1. Since they did not have any means of protection physically, they created a different method, called song.
  2. Again this social effect of jazz was a result of greed by whites, and it created anger, fear and resentment among black jazz musicians. They rode greyhound buses through Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Virginia, and other states.
  3. University of Illinois Press.

Dispatches from the Front: Music and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s Few sights or sounds conjure up the passion and purposefulness of the Southern Civil Rights Movement as powerfully as the freedom songs that provided a stirring musical accompaniment to the campaign for racial justice and equality in the region during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

This essay suggests just a few of the musical forms that might profitably be used by teachers and students to explore the history of the Southern Civil Rights Movement and the revolution in mass black consciousness upon which it was based. The movement was endlessly creative and adaptive. For all of its spiritual energy, moral and constitutional authority, and valiant attempts at coherent strategic planning, it was ultimately much less concerned with dogmatic notions of ideological or tactical correctness than with trying to get the job of destroying segregation and disenfranchisement done.

Historically, black music displayed many of the same priorities.

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To be sure, African American music has always favored certain musical techniques and devices a preference for syncopated and danceable rhythms, for example. Nevertheless, the most influential and popular black musicians have rarely been so preoccupied with dubious notions of musical authenticity or purity to overlook a good tune, an effective arrangement, or a telling lyric, no matter what their provenance.

  1. Kofsky 1998 believes that this refusal of whites to credit blacks is because they refused to equate anything valuable with African Americans.
  2. From noun to verb.
  3. He improvises, he creates. Civil rights did not change over night; it took a long time to obtain results.
  4. In the 1920s, jazz experienced a rise in popularity when the music began to spread through recordings. Music educators can highlight this fact to exemplify the power of music while also noting how, in studying music, students are not only learning an instrument, but also a powerful unifier.

Much like the movement, black music was creative, adaptive, and eclectic: Around this time, other individuals also put their stamp on the song. That all changed during the civil rights campaign in Albany, Georgia in 1961 and 1962. In Albany, young black activists, led by Bernice Johnson Reagon and associated with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee SNCCtook the basic structure of the song, syncopated the rhythms, and slowed the tempo down.

This opened it up to spontaneous vocal punctuations from the singer-protestors, who gathered to sing it at mass meetings and at their demonstrations. In terms of its stated goal of integrating public accommodations, the Albany campaign was something of a failure.

These singers, like their counterparts, the Congress of Racial Equality CORE Freedom Singers, helped to spread the word of the movement far beyond the South through concert tours and recordings that included traditional black spirituals and folk songs as well as newly created freedom songs.

On stage and on record, Cordell Reagon—another of the original SNCC Freedom Singers—would often act as a narrator, explaining how particular songs were created in the midst of particular local struggles. And it is precisely because the freedom songs were frequently improvised to reflect very specific issues, personalities, and events, as well as to convey the broader spirit, motivations, and goals of the movement, that they offer such fascinating, frontline insights into the lived history of the freedom struggle.

For example, an outstanding song leader like Betty Mae Fikes reworked existing freedom songs to capture local details of the struggle in Selma, Alabama.

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This kind of customization gave a concrete local context to songs that were staples among activists, young and old, throughout the entire South. At a time when integration and biracial cooperation were touchstones for the movement, this musical miscegenation -- also apparent in early rock-and-roll music, which boasted black and white artists and black and white fans, and which drew on both black rhythm-and-blues and white country influences -- symbolically reproduced the best hopes of many activists.

Nevertheless, the other forms of popular music with which the freedom songs often intersected—blues, gospel, folk, jazz, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, and soul—also offer useful insights into the entwined histories of the freedom struggle, black racial consciousness, and race relations.

Indeed, it is important to recognize that African Americans were not the only ones singing about the movement in the 1950s and early 1960s.

The Social Effects of Jazz

Folkies like Dylan produced earnest and often inspirational songs that helped to create a groundswell of public support for civil rights protests and reform, especially among young white college students.

Folk songs and freedom songs tended to be fairly open in their commitment to the Civil Rights Movement. In considering what music was most intimately connected to, or evocative of, the civil rights era, it is tempting to focus purely on the lyrics of particular songs. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that the changing sounds of black music during this period embodied the revitalized sense of black pride and raised racial consciousness upon which any organized struggle for racial justice built.

For example, the soul music pioneered by artists such as Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, and the Impressions in the late 1950s, and refined by the stars of Motown in Detroit and Stax in Memphis, among the goal for equal rights by jazz music others, in the 1960s, fused rhythm and blues, pop, and in the case of Southern soul, country music with the protean gospel influences that marked the style—irrespective of its lyrical content—as unmistakably and proudly African American.

The whole of the avant-garde or free jazz movement that claimed Coltrane, along with other prodigiously gifted musicians such as Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, and Pharoah Sanders, as major influences was predicated on a self-conscious rejection of Western—interpreted as white—notions of musical correctness. Many of these musicians hoped to escape what they saw as the tyranny of white cultural expectations and standards by substituting a black aesthetic, which would give precedence to a different, uniquely African American standard of musical excellence.

As such, their musical experimentation represented a more radical expression of the kind of discontent with the racial status quo that inspired the civil rights struggle, coupled with a determination to secure respect for distinctively African American values that would become a hallmark of the Black Power era in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The accomplishments of these musicians help to illustrate the important point that the political and social significance of all black music, be it jazz, soul, or the freedom songs, was often encoded in its rhythms, timbres, harmonies, and melodies.

Yet another way in which black music evoked civil rights themes was through lyrics that, in comparison to lyrics in freedom songs and to some folk music, were less explicit about the struggle itself.

  • Furthermore, some people oppose the idea that jazz was invented by blacks;
  • Black jazz musicians were primarily from the lower class.

In fact, lyrics about the civil rights struggle were relatively rare in commercially successful rhythm-and-blues and soul music until the second half of the 1960s. Before that, there was a good deal of innuendo.

Music in the Civil Rights Movement

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, literally dozens upon dozens of rhythm-and-blues and soul songs like these spoke to the growth of black pride, the distinctiveness of the African American experience, and the beauties of black culture, as well as to the specifics of the civil rights struggle. Together, they provided a witty, poignant, joyous, hummable, and eminently danceable musical soundtrack to an era when the spirit of the movement and the possibilities for a more equalitarian society captured the imagination of most black and many white Americans, even beyond those who were active participants in any formal movement activities.

Such sentiments had always animated the Civil Rights Movement. His major publications include Just My Soul Responding: A Documentary Reader 2009.

He is currently working on a book about the relationships between the American South and the world of British popular music.