The Civil Rights Songs March to The Beat of Gospel Music

*song update 6-08*

*Civil Rights Lyrics 2009 update*

The "Civil Rights songs" (gospel music) were sung at sit-ins, boycotts, peaceful protest marches, church meetings or en-route to one of the many "Jim Crow" Jails. This powerful music conveyed the urgency of the freedom struggle and the absolute need for change.

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An important outlook of Civil Rights Songs and its penetrating force on the Civil Rights Movement is that it has shown so much adaptivity, creativity and mutuality of its roots, that this kind of music is easily integrated into the heredity of all our ethnic backgrounds.

The story behind "We Shall Over Come Some Day" began from a nineteenth century hymn "I'll Over Come Someday". We Shall Overcome Later the Civil Rights Song were changed, to what we now know it to be, by Southern African American tobacco workers. They later performed it for Zilphia Horton of the "Highlander Folk School" of Monteagle, Tennessee. This school was a bi-racial training ground for activists and those who were interested in labor organizing, social reform and civil rights.


After listening to this famous song in the making, Zilphia introduced this Civil Rights Song to the white folk singer and political peace activist, Peter Seeger. Seeger then added various other lines to the song such as ("black and White together") to create a new version that the Highlander's music director, Guy Caravan promoted as a "Universal call for justice and human rights". Let Freedom Sing: How Music Inspired the Civil Rights Movement.


Martin Luther King's March



Go Tell It On The Mountain


Not only was the original Civil Rights (gospel) song adapted by Seeger and Caravan, it was also added on to by a black high school student by the name of Mary Ethel Dozier. Her contribution to the song was "We Are Not Afraid". Further more, this freedom song, which was sung by political peace activists for the Civil Rights Movement, rightfully held a high place in the musical history of the struggle.

Not to be confused, not only was black gospel music lyrics being sung by black folks, but it was being sung by white folk artists such as Peter Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Janis Ian and Phil Ochs. All of these artists sang about the indignation of segregation and racism.


slavery and justice
While gospel music has undeniably been a great influence on the "Civil Rights Movement" and in helping to give encourgement to those who lead the way in riding the south of statutory segregation, encouraging equality, it also aided in rejuvenating the sense of "black pride" and empowerment.

Aretha Franklin

Such songs as "Aint Going To let Nobody Turn Me Around" and "Respect" by Aretha Franklin

have not only given African American, as well as other races, the respect for black rights, achievements and aspirations but has encouraged the struggle for dignity to continue on. From the song listed above, you can listen to some other gospel snippets of Civil Rights Songs.

Martin L. King's Speech

Click on the above photo of the greatest civil rights speaker ever (in my opinion) and you can access some super info. about this legendary icon.

Slavery was abolished in the 1860's. "The Civil Rights Movement" also goes by many other names, some of which are "The Black Freedom Movement", "The Negro Revolution", The Civil Rights" and "The Second Reconstruction" (the later of Which ended in 1877).

For more information on Civil War music, maps, photographs and lesson plans Click Here!



To get a sense of some powerful words that were sung during Civil Rights Movement, here is a list of the great Civil Rights Songs of the times:

I.If He Changed My Name"

II.This Little Light Of Mine"

III.If You See Me From The Back of the Bus"

IV.Lord Hold My Hand While I Run This Race"

V.Get On Board Little Children"

VI.Oh Freedom

VII.Leaning On The Everlasting Arms"

VIII.Kum Bah Ya"

VIIII.Wade In The Water"
Ballad of Medgar Evers X.Ballad of Medgar Evers"


Listen to some snippits of Great Gospel Songs from the Movement (real player needed to listen)

These are the lyrics to the incredible Civil Rights Songs listed above but you can listen to snippets of them here.


Many of these songs were recorded live at a lot of the Mass Church meetings. They were recorded from different people of all walks of life. These Civil Rights Songs all came together for a common cause, which was the encouragement of civil rights and freedom.

These gospel songs drew from the spiritual, rhythm and blues, and calypso forms of music. With this much history of gospel music behind us, we can only continue moving forward and forever be striving for equal rights and renew the appreciation for this saga of history and celebration of the freedom we enjoy today.

Currently, the effects of gospel music on today's society, particularly black gospel music, has gripped the country. It can be felt, heard and expressed in every city and small town in the south as well as in church programs,

Civil Rights Church

auditoriums and even in plays with widespread appeal to many groups. The inspirational performances of the gospel songs of today now have elaborate costumes, beautiful choir robes, and travel in comfort, contrary to the earlier years of gospel music.

Gospel Music has changed in so many ways but it's principle mission remains constant-to uplift the spirits of its participants and to help them express their religion through song.

Remember, no matter your interpretation or your expression of music through song, the point is and will always remain the same, keep spreading the word of the good news (Salvation) through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Don't forget, "you and I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens us!"


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