The National Civil Rights Museum Celebrates Black Music Month
Music has been intrinsically linked with the Civil Rights Movement and African American history. Our celebration of Black Music Month began as a way to connect with you during this pandemic. However, as the current moment has unfolded, it has become a way for us to use music to educate, heal, reflect, and inspire.
Each week, we will release a themed playlist curated by the NCRM staff. Share with us your recommendations using the hashtag: #BlackMusicMonth #RevolutionaryMusic
RESISTANCE & Strength
“This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
– Frederick Douglass, 1857
“Struggle is a never-ending process.
Freedom is never really won; you earn it and win it in every generation.”
– Coretta Scott King
“Actually, the world and America is upset,
and the only way to bring about change is to upset it more.”
-Fannie Lou Hamer, 1965
“We have fought like hell for our freedom and we will continue to fight like hell. Because we deserve more than what we have been given. Because we deserve the healing and the transformation. Most importantly we deserve to be free.”
-Patrisse Cullors, 2019
Our first theme for Black Music Month is resistance and strength. They are central to the Black Freedom struggle. For generations, African Americans found strength in various forms: mental, physical, psychological, and spiritual to resist the systematic oppression they faced on a regular basis. Resistance in the Black Freedom struggle is multifaceted from nonviolent civil disobedience to message clothes and fashion to acts of self-defense to the pursuit of an education. Resistance and strength come in all shapes and sizes in the Black community because the community is diverse.
The songs on this week’s playlist reflect that diversity.
Sweet Honey in the Rock’s Stay on the Battlefield is from their 1995 album Sacred Ground. Lead by noted scholar-singer-activist Bernice Johnson Reagon, the song merges the African American spiritual Stay on the Battlefield with the powerful poetry of Sonia Sanchez. It is a reflection of the realities of the protest work, and the dedication to stay in the fight for social justice.
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is a frequently repeated phrase, but few people have heard the astounding 1971 poem by Gil Scott-Heron. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised provokes the reader to realize that the true change will not be brought to them by corporations, but rather through a change in one’s own mind and actions.
Martha & The Vandellas’ I Should Be Proud may seem out of place on this list, but the 1970 song was considered controversial at the time for its prominent anti-war message. It urges people to move beyond telling the families of fallen Vietnam War soldiers they should be proud of their sacrifice to seeing the pain and grief at the loss of their loved one.
Acts of resistance by their nature push people outside of their comfort zone, and are frequently controversial. Songs like Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit, Nina Simone’s Mississippi Goddam, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five’s The Message force people to confront the brutal realities of Black life in America.
NWA’s Express Yourself encourages people to be original and present themselves in an honest fashion. NWA is also noted for the more controversial song F*** Tha Police is not on our playlist, but it is a critical part of the history of resistance songs in Black music history. The controversial protest song was panned for its suggestions of violence against law enforcement. The song is the reflection of 1980s Black youth who repeatedly found themselves harassed by law enforcement. The anger and frustration was born out of the hard realities of life as a Black man in America. Despite the controversy, the song is the embodiment of the range of resistance sentiment within the Black community.
Regardless of your personal perspective, resistance and strength are core values in the fight for social justice. In the Black Freedom Struggle resistance and strength is looks different for each person. What is most important is that we heed the words of Public Enemy and FIGHT THE POWER!
Tell us what songs by Black artists you like.
Check out our full Resistance & Strength Playlist.