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HOW NATIONAL BLACK CATHOLIC CONGRESS SHARES MLK AND THE SONGS OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT! (401 hits)


For Immediate Release From National Black Catholic Congress!


WINDSOR TERRACE — When a bus driver in Montgomery, Alabama, demanded that a young Black woman named Rosa Parks give up her seat in the non-Black designated section of the bus, so began the civil rights movement in earnest.

Parks’ arrest in 1955 caused the nation to look inward and face the inequality and injustice that had long been fermenting throughout the nation. It would take the resilient faith and eloquence of Dr. Martin Luther King to finally rally supporters from all across the country to join together for the peaceful March on Washington on August 28, 1963, with the primary purpose of establishing civil rights legislation and job equality for everyone.

“We Shall Overcome” became the anthem of the movement thanks to folk singer and activist Pete Seeger, who embraced the song, an adaptation of an Italian hymn first published in 1901 by Charles Albert Tindley under the title “I’ll Overcome Someday.” The song also has deeper roots in the Catholic hymn “O Sanctissima,” which dates back to 1792.

“We Shall Overcome” was performed by other prominent folk singers of the ’60s, including Joan Baez, who sang the song at the March on Washington.

Four days before his assassination on April 4, 1968, Dr. King recited the words to “We Shall Overcome” at his final sermon at a church in Memphis, Tennessee, reminding the crowd of his fervent hope that, “We shall overcome, we shall overcome someday; Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome someday.”

Along with King’s own poetry in his “I Have a Dream” speech, the song helped cement the notion that African-Americans could persevere with the goal of equal freedoms for all humankind.

Similarly, “I Shall Not Be Moved” is another spiritual hymn associated with the civil rights movement after it was adapted into the more secular “We Shall Not Be Moved” and performed by gospel singer Mavis Staples. The lyric addressed the unrest at the time with lines like, “We shall not be moved, we’re fighting for our freedom, we shall not be moved.”


Songs of Inequality and Injustice

Songs of inequality and injustice date back decades before Dr. King. For example, gospel and blues artist Billie Holiday bravely performed the song “Strange Fruit,” in 1939. The song described the violent lynching of Blacks in the South. It was written in 1937 by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher from New York who felt compelled to shine a light on the tragic situation. He explained that he wrote the song because “I hate lynching and I hate injustice and I hate the people who perpetuate it.”

Through the years, other artists — including Diana Ross, Jeff Buckley, and Nina Simone — recorded “Strange Fruit.” Simone contributed her own civil rights anthem with the candid “Mississippi Goddam,” prompted by the assassination of Mississippi civil rights activist Medgar Evers on June 12, 1963. Simone angrily railed at the injustice while clearly expressing her lack of faith in mankind: “Lord have mercy on this land of mine, we all gonna get it in due time; I don’t belong here, I don’t belong there; I’ve even stopped believing in prayer.”

Evers’ murder also inspired a young folk singer from Hibbing, Minnesota named Robert Zimmerman, who changed modern music when he came to New York and became Bob Dylan. Dylan’s 1964 protest ballad “Only a Pawn in Their Game” opens starkly with the words, “A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Evers’ blood,” and goes on to indict the white Southern politicians for turning a blind eye to the injustice and inequality and keeping the fires of segregation burning by inciting poor whites to hate their Black neighbors with the powerful lyric, “A South politician preaches to the poor white man; You got more than the Blacks, don’t complain; You’re better than them, you been born with white skin,” they explain.”

Dylan ultimately became the musical driving force of the civil rights movement when he recorded “Blowin’ in the Wind,” the opening track of his classic 1963 album “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.” It became the anthem of a generation when Peter, Paul & Mary released it as a single, reaching No. 3 on the pop chart that same year. The lyrics were a revelation served up as a series of posed questions, “Yes, ‘n’ how many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free; Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see; The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

Read the full article HERE!: https://thetablet.org/mlk-and-the-songs-of-the-civil-rights-movement/#.YAQ5pKme_CQ.twitter
Posted By: agnes levine
Sunday, January 17th 2021 at 11:11AM
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