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Class Year

2006

Abstract

“We became visible.” This is how Bernice Johnson Reagon, a Civil Rights Movement worker, a member of the Freedom Singers, and the founder of Sweet Honey In The Rock explained how songs uplifted and inspired those blacks and whites who worked tirelessly for freedom throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s. Indeed, freedom songs in the movement gave participants the ability to stand up against their fears, express their hopes and desires, and unite the diverse range of people who participated in the movement. Reagon, now a history professor and music legend, grew up right outside of Albany, Georgia, where freedom songs first became an integral part of the Civil Rights Movement. Nestled in a land entrenched with racial segregation, the Albany campaign was notable because almost every single black member of the community became visible through his or her work. Whether it was by going to jail, marching, or attending a mass meeting, most citizens actively participated. Albany was and is still considered today to be one of the birthplaces of the mass movement for racial equality. Albany, therefore, came to symbolize for the larger struggle for black freedom not only the birthplace of a true grassroots campaign, but also the birthplace of freedom songs that would spread throughout the country and become a familiar and helpful tool for many freedom fighters.

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