How Folk Music Affected The Civil Rights Movement in America

Music has been part of historical movements and revolutions since ages. There is something in music that brings people together and fuels their energy and motivation. Music also brings out emotions and feelings that people hide within themselves because of some fear. There is a famous story about a day in the year 1963, when the folk musician Joan Baez joined Martin Luther King Jr., in Washington. It was one of the largest gatherings ever gathered for the civil rights movement in the US. Baez started singing the song ‘Oh Freedom,’ which is a famous African American song. All the crowd joined him regardless of their skin color, and it felt like the whole of humanity is singing for equality. This song was an ancient song and had been part of many movements, but this day turned this song into a memorable tune.

How Folk Music Affected The Civil Rights Movement in America
How Folk Music Affected The Civil Rights Movement in America

The Civil Rights movement was about all sects of society coming together for equality and freedom. It wasn’t only about great speeches from the leaders of the campaign. It was a blend of several creative people joining the movement to show solidarity with the people who were denied their rights since ages. Folk musicians like Baez, Harry Belafonte, Pete Seeger, Paul Robeson, and many others played a significant role in the success of the movement. The movement was built upon people, making it a part of their lives and willing to put their name and fame on stake.

Spreading the message of unity

So many famous folksingers and joining MLK Jr and others who were leading the movement wasn’t just instrumental in spreading the word all over the world. Apart from bringing the media coverage, their support also signified the fact that it wasn’t just an African people movement, but famous personalities from the white community were also supporting this movement. The message that people irrespective of their color, shape, and sizes were struggling together was vital at the time.

The message of unity is always a need for society, but the need for unity was crucial during the Civil Rights movement. It was almost impossible to pull off the movement without it. This message gave people, who were hesitant to come out in open to support the campaign, strength to speak up against the wrong, and join the movement. Watching the singers, they idolized singing along with them and helping them gave them the belief that things are certainly going to change.

Significant civil rights musicians and songs

Several songs are still popular even today that carry a public message. ‘We shall overcome’ was the soul of the civil rights movement and still is one of the best motivational songs. Horton was the first to introduce this song to the movement’s activists and folk singers. However, it was the Guy Carawan who made it popular among the members of the campaign. Peter Seeger, Paul Robeon, the Staple Singers, and many others contributed to the music of the civil rights movement.

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