AFRICAN AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS SONGS

AFRICAN AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS SONGS

This page contains text & video examples of and comments about selected African American civil rights songs from the 1960s. "Civil rights songs" are also known as "freedom songs".

This page is not meant to be a comprehensive listing of African American civil rights songs.

All lyrics and videos that are showcased on this page are presented for their sociological, folkloric, historical, aesthetic, and entertainment value.

Ms. Azizi Powell,
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Contact : cocojams17@yahoo.com

Latest revision - July 18, 2013

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GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT AFRICAN AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS SONGS
Many freedom songs are modifications of 19th century or earlier African American spirituals or post civil war African American gospel songs. In those cases, the freedom song has the same tune and many of the same words as the religious song. However, the tempos of the civil rights song and the religious song may differ. Some freedom songs have also come from or been used as pro-union labor songs. For example, the songs "We Shall Overcome" and "We Shall Not Be Moved" (both found below) were used by Black Americans and White Americans and others during workers' pro-union movements. These songs were later revised for the 1960s civil rights movement.

Like spirituals and other folk songs, the words to civil rights songs aren't fixed. Verses can be left off, the order of verses can be changed, and new verses can be added as the spirit moves the singers.

Most of the songs on this page are from my memories of the African American civil rights movement (early-mid 1960s). I learned these songs in Atlantic City, New Jersey 1962-1965. I consider myself to have been a passive participant in the civil rights movement. The only demonstrations that I participated in was one time in 1962 or 1963 during a convention in Newark, New Jersey along with other members of that state's youth branches of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). During that occassion, we marched down a couple of downtown sidewalk streets singing freedom songs. During that time period I also marched on what I now conside "pretend demonstrations" on sidewalks in Black neighborhoods of Atlantic City, New Jersey. (The area of the town is significant, as I believe that if these were "real" demonstrations, we would have probably been marching in the dowtown area of the city or in (other) White areas of the town. Note that I consider the downtown area to have been a "White" area of that city, since I don't recall any stores or other businesses that were owned or even operated by Black people or other non-White people.

I also was priviledged to participate in the 1963 March On Washington. However, I don't really consider that a "real" civil rights demonstration, at least not one in which participants faced imminent opposition from segregationists or police who supported segregationists". (See a repost of a mudcat.org discussion forum comment that I wrote about this experience below)..

VIDEO SOURCES & HOW VIDEOS ARE PRESENTED
All of the videos on this page are from http://www.youtube.com/

Please note that links to YouTube videos or to other online resources may not remain viable. Also, please be aware that comments posted on YouTube viewer comments threads may not be suitable for children or otherwise may not meet the standards of Cocojams.com

Videos are posted in alphabetical order under the heading of the name of the song.

Most of these videos are presented with little or no comment or analysis. Hyperlinks may be provided for additional video examples, information, and/or comments, Cocojams.com is not responsible for the content or availability of websites other than Cocojams pages and its sister website http://www.jambalayah.com

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Thanks to all who help raise awareness of and appreciation for these songs!

Also, thanks to all who were and who are involved in civil rights movements throughout the world!

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DEDICATION
This page is dedicated to all those who have died for the cause of freedom throughout the world.

This page is also dedicated to all those who continue to work for freedom. justice, and equal rights for all.

The following five "general tone" videos, as well as the sampling of Civil Rights videos are re-posted on this page with those goals in mind.

Maya Angelou- Still I Rise

**
Sweet honey in the rock - Ella's Song [a song for civil rights leader Ella Baker]

Geepereet ; December 02, 2008

**
Johm Legend -"Pride in the Name of Love"

PrideJohnLegend | April 03, 2008

In celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr., musician John Legend performs his rendition of the U2 classic "Pride (In the Name of Love)."

**
Rosa Sat - song for Barack Obama

Posted by marsh820 ; January 17, 2009

"Written and performed by Amy Dixon-Kolar (c) 2008 Asharta Music/ASCAP.

**
Peace Train by Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens)

Uploaded by supportpeace on May 27, 2006
"Pro Peace message from Yusuf Islam"

**

EXAMPLES OF AFRICAN AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS SONGS

A,B
AINT GONNA LET NOBODY TURN ME 'ROUND
(based on an African American Gospel song)

Aint gonna let nobody
turn me 'round
turn me 'round
Aint gonna let nobody
turn me round
I'm gonna keep on walkin'
keep on talkin
marchin into freedom land

Aint gonna let (add the name a prominent segregationist)
turn me 'round
turn me 'round
Aint gonna let (repeat name)
turn me 'round
I'm gonna keep on walkin'
keep on talkin
marchin into freedom land

Aint gonna let no jailhouse
turn me 'round
turn me 'round
Aint gonna let no jailhouse
turn me 'round
I'm gonna keep on walkin'
keep on talkin
marchin into freedom land

Aint gonna let no policeman
turn me 'round
turn me 'round
Aint gonna let no policeman
turn me round
I'm gonna keep on walkin'
keep on talkin
marchin into freedom land

-snip-

These lyrics are presented by Azizi Powell from my memory of this song being sung in the 1960s.

The African American Civil Rights song "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round" is based on an African American Gospel song "Don't Let Nobody Turn Me Round". A version of that song was recorded in 1947.

Like other civil rights songs, the words to "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round" aren't fixed, meaning there are different versions of this song. However, "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round" is sung in unison which means that those singing it knew in advance which verses were to be sung, and in which order the verses were sung.

The earliest Gospel version of this song may have been sung in unison but by at least 1947 the Gospel version of "Don't Let Nobody Turn Me Round" was also sung in unison.

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/06/aint-gonna-let-nobody-turn-me-ro... for additional videos of the Civil Rights song "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round. That post includes two videos of Gospel versions of "Don't Let Nobody Turn You Round" " including one by The Fairfield Four from the 1980s and Albertina Walker .I'm not sure about the recording date for that Albertina Walker video, but I think it was in the early 2000s. The Fairfield Four first recorded this song in 1947.

Click http://www.songsforteaching.com/folk/aintgonnaletnobodyturnmearound.php for other verses for "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round".

-snip-

Here's a sound file of Sweet Honey In The Rock singing "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around":

Uploaded by Rowoches on Jan 26, 2010

-snip-

Here's a video of Joan Baez singing "Marching Up To Freedom Land"

Posted by Baez971
August 04, 2006

"Joan baez singing acapella

****
Here's a version of "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round" by the Roots

Uploaded by djlightbolt on Oct 1, 2010
From "Soundtrk 4 a Revolution"

-snip-
Hat tip to Jenny U for informing me about this video.

This contemporary rendition of "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me "Round" is a jazzed up, funkier version of that Civil Rights song. This video includes documentary clips of 1960s Civil Rights marches. Those marches were also called "demonstrations".

C,D
CERTAINLY LORD
(This civil rights song is based on the African American Gospel song with the same title, That song is also known as "Have You Got Good Religion".)

Do you want your freedom?
(Certainly, Lord.)
Do you want your freedom?
(Certainly, Lord.)
Do you want your freedom?
(Certainly, Lord.)
Certainly, Certainly, Certainly Lord.

We'll march for our rights.
(Certainly, Lord.)
We'll march for our rights.
(Certainly, Lord.)
We'll march for our rights.
(Certainly, Lord.)
Certainly, Certainly, Certainly, Lord.

We'll go to jail.
(Certainly, Lord.)
We'll go to jail.
(Certainly, Lord.)
We'll go to jail.
(Certainly, Lord.)
Certainly, Certainly, Certainly, Lord.

Jail over bail.*
(Certainly, Lord)
Jail over bail.
(Certainly, Lord.)
Jail over bail.
(Certainly, Lord.)

Do you want your freedom?
(Certainly, Lord.)
Do you want your freedom?
(Certainly, Lord.)
Do you want your freedom?
(Certainly, Lord.)
Certainly, Certainly, Certainly Lord
Certainly, certainly, certainly Lord.
Certainly, certainly, certainly Lord

-snip-
This is just one version of this Civil Rights song.

My recollection of this song is that it was sung using a call & response pattern. The soloist asks the initial question, the rest the choir or congregation sing "Certainly, Lord", and the soloist and the choir/congregation sing "Certainly, certainly, certainly Lord".

Like other African American Civil Rights songs of the 1960s, the words of this song were changed and can still be changed to fit the particular issue or cause being protested.

* "Jail over bail" means that the person arrested chooses to remain in jail rather than have his or her bail paid and be released from jail. This strategy draws media attention to the cause being protested.

Here's a video of an African American church choir singing a Gospel rendition of "Have You Got Good Religion".

Posted by jayhardinchristine
June 22, 2009

"Sis. Calloway leading the SBC Gospel Choir in singing "Have you got good religion". Have you got good religion? Certainly, Lord. Certainly, certainly, certainly, Lord. "

-snip-

It appears that this choir is singing "Have You Got Good Religion" during a congregational offering. In the Baptist church I attended in my hometown of Atlantic City, New Jersey, one of the two offerings was (and still is) also done this way. Members of the congregation move row by row to the front to give their money donations. After the congregation finishes, the choir comes down from their rows on the rostum behind the minister/s to give their offering or an offering plate is passed to the choir and ministers.

"SBC" probably stands for "Shiloh Baptist Church" or "Second Baptist Church". Both of these are very common church names among African Americans throughout the United States.

**
Here's a rendition of the traditional African American Gospel song "Certainly Lord" as sung by two African American operatic singers and an African American choir:

Jessye Norman + Kathleen Battle 'Certainly, Lord' 1990

Posted by LEGENDSOFTHEROD1
July 09, 2009

"[For blasianFMA] Performing at Carnegie Hall .... with James Levine .... March 1990"

-snip-

In my experience, a moderately fast tempo is used for the civil rights version of "Certainly, Lord", a tempo that is faster than those two renditions of these Gospel versions of this song.

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/06/certainly-lord-gospel-civil-righ... for a pancocojams blog post on this song that includes lyrics to the Gospel song "Have You Got Good Religion" ("Certainly, Lord").

E,F

FREE AT LAST
(Anonymous; traditional African American song)

Chorus:
Free at last- free at last-
I thank God I'm free at last-
Free at last- free at last-
I thank God I'm free at last!

Way down yonder in the graveyard walk,
I thank God I'm free at last,
Me an' my Jesus gonna meet and talk.-
I thank God I'm free at last-
Free at last- Free at last-
Oh, I thank God I'm free at last!

On my knees when the light passed by,
I thank God I'm free at last-
Thought my soul would rise and fly,
I thank God I'm free at last.
Free at last- free at last-
I thank God I'm free at last!

Some of these mornings, bright and fair,
I thank God I'm free at last-
Gonna meet King Jesus in the air,
I thank God I'm free at last.
Free at last- free at last-
I thank God I'm free at last.

****
FREEDOM
F-R-E-E-D-O-M What does that spell? FREEDOM! That's what we need. FREEDOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
-Anonymous; 6/7/2007

Editor:
Anonymous 6/7/2007, thanks for sending that chant in. It reminded me of this chant which was widely used during Civil Rights demonstrations in the USA:

What do we want? Freedom!!! When do we want it? Now!!!

G,H
HOLD ON [Civil Rights versions)
(based on an African American spiritual "Keep Your Hand On The Plow")

Paul and Silas bound in jail
with no money to forgo their bail
Keep your eye on the prize
and hold on, hold on

chorus:
Hold on
Hold on
Keep your eye on the prize
and hold on, hold on.

If religion was a thing
that money could buy
the rich would live and the
poor would die
Keep your eye on the prize
and hold on, hold on.

chorus

One and one
that makes two
tell you what I'm-ma gonna do
Keep my eye on the prize
and hold on, hold on

chorus

Know the one thing we did wrong
stayed in the wilderness far too long
Know the first thing we did right
was the day we started to fight
Keep your eye on the prize hold on, hold on

Editor:
Thanks, Mama Kemba for sending in the third verse to this song on 2/26/2008. Thanks, also, to bill allen for sending a message on 4/24/2009 which noted that "Keep Your Eye On The Prize" is an urban version of the rural (farm or plantation) song ""Hold On". bill also included these verses in his message:

1. When you plow, don't lose your track, Can't plow straight and keep a-lookin' back.
Keep your hand on that plow, hold on (Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.)

2. Wanna getta heav'n?, I'll tell you how, Keep your hand right on that plow. (Keep your eyes...)

3. When I thought I was lost, Dungeon shook and the chains fell off.
(Keep your eyes...)

4. Got my hands on the gospel plow, Wouldn't take nothin' for my journey now.
(Keep your eyes...)

5. The only chain we can stand, Is the chain of hand in hand
(Keep your eyes...)

-snip-

Other verses can be added to this song, and to all of the other songs on this page. What verses can you think of for this song or for other freedom songs?

Visit this Mudcat Discussion Forum thread about the song "Keep your eyes on the prize" http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?ThreadID=4136

**
Here's a song file of Mahalia Jackson singing "Keep Your Hand To The Plow"

Posted by jahboyz3
January 27, 2008

**
Here's a civil rights version of this song:

Odetta at Carnegie Hall - Hold on (gospel plow)

Uploaded by wecms on Feb 27, 2012

Hold on (the gospel plow) was recorded in Odetta live concert at Carnegie Hall on April 8, 1960 featured support from Bill Lee on string bass. ( Lee -- father of Spike Lee)

I,J
IF YOU MISS ME FROM THE BACK OF THE BUS
(adapted from the song composed by Charles Neblett of the Freedom Singers to the tune of "O Mary Don't You Weep." )

If you miss me at the back of the bus
If you can't find me back there
Come on up to the front of the bus
I'll be sittin right there
I'll be sittin right there
Come on up to the front of the bus
I'll be sittin right there

If you can't find me in the school room
If you can't find me in there
Come on out to the picket line
I'll be standin right there
I'll be standin right there
Come on out to the picket line
I'll be standin right there

If you can't find me in the picket line
If you can't find me out there
Come on down to the jail house
I'll be singin in there
I'll be singin in there
Come on down to the jail house
I'll be singin in there

If you can't find me in jail house
If you don't see me in there
Come on over to the church yard
I'll be prayin out there
I'll be prayin out there
Come on over to the church yard
I'll be prayin out there.

[Here are some additional verses from a 1963 book Sing Out! (a publication of civil rights songs edited by Guy and Candie Carawan, published by Oak Publications; New York ; p. 50; {Library of Congress Number 63-23278}.

If you miss me from the front of the bus,
and you can't find me nowhere,
Come on up to the driver's seat,
I'll be driving up there. etc.

If you miss me from Jackson State,
and you can't find me no where
Come on over to Ole Miss,
I'll be studyin' over there. etc.

If you miss me from knockin' on doors
and you can't find me nowhere
Come on down to the registrar's room,
I'll be the registrar there. ect.

If you miss me from the cotton field,
and you can't find me nowhere.
Come on down to the court house,
I'll be voting right there. etc

If you miss me from the picket line,
and you can't find me nowhere.
Come on down to the jail house,
I'll be rooming down there. etc.

If you miss me from the Mississippi
River
and you can't find me nowhere
Come on down to the city pool
I'll be swimming in there. etc.

-snip-

See this comment from Charles Neblett's brother & from Charles Neblett himself posted on Feb 25, 2008 on http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=36629&messages=101#2095880
"Back of the Bus" songs

"If you miss me at the back of the bus" was composed and copywrited by Carver Neblett, aka, Seku Neblett . The original title was "If you miss me in the Mississippi River and you can't find me nowhere, come on down to the swimming pool and I'll be swimming down there". The song was written during a trial sourounding protest at the public swimming pool in Cairo, Illinois. The brother of one of the defendants drowned in the river because the public pool did not admit people of African decent. As the song spread throught the south, the people changed the the song into, "If you miss me at the back of the bus". Thank you, Seku Neblett, Charles Neblett's brother. -

I am very much alive and still struggling for "The Liberation, and Unification of Africa and all of her scattered and suffering People and for the forward progress of the human family.

Thank you,
http://www.seku.com http://www.youtube.com/nkrumahseku
-GUEST,Seku Neblett aka Carver Neblett aka Chico Ne

**

Here's a delighful sound file of this song by a group of schoolchildren:

Posted by SongsOfFreedomKids
January 18, 2008

"Kids in 2008 learning about and singing the classic song from the US Civil Rights Movement. "If You Miss Me from the Back of the Bus" was written by Charles Neblett of the Freedom Singers to the tune of "O Mary Don't You Weep.""

-snip-

The "video" includes the lyrics of the song along with drawings and photographs. This video reflects the time when people were protesting the Jim Crow laws or customs that dictated that non-White people had to sit in the back of the bus or get up from their bus seats if a White person wanted to sit there.

****

I'M GONNA SIT AT THE WELCOME TABLE
(adapted from an African American spiritual)

I'm gonna sit at the welcome table,
I'm gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days,
Hallelujah!
I'm gonna sit at the welcome table,
I'm gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days.

I'm gonna walk the streets of glory,
I'm gonna walk the streets of glory one of these days,
Hallelujah!
I'm gonna walk the streets of glory,
I'm gonna walk the streets of glory one of these days.

I'm gonna get my civil rights,
I'm gonna get my civil rights one of these days,
Hallelujah!
I'm gonna get my civil rights,
I'm gonna get my civil rights one of these days.

I'm gonna sit at the Woolworth counter,
I'm gonna sit at the Woolworth counter one of these days,
Hallelujah!
I'm gonna sit at the Woolworth counter,
I'm gonna sit at the Woolworth counter one of these days.

Editor:
This song is based on an African American spiritual with the same title. It was part of a play written by the students of the McComb, Mississippi, Freedom School in 1964. Source: http://www.ed.uiuc.edu/courses/ci407ss/welcometable.html

See http://www.ed.uiuc.edu/courses/ci407ss/freedomschools.html
for information about freedom schools.

See also information about and sound clips of this Folkways record:
http://www.smithsonianglobalsound.org/trackdetail.aspx?itemid=17322
The Nashville Sit-in Story: Songs and Scenes of Nashville Lunch Counter Desegregation (by the Sit-In Participants)

See, also a discussion of this song on http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=93754&messages=21
Origins: Gospel song 'The Welcome Table'

-snip-

Here's a jazzy rendition of "Sit At The Welcome Table"

"Welcome Table" from the Old Town School Songbook, Volume 4

Uploaded by oldtownschool on Oct 18, 2007

****

I'M ON MY WAY
(based on an African American spiritual "I'm On My Way to Canaan Land", and "I'm Bound For The Promised Land")

I'm on my way to the freedom land
I'm on my way to the freedom land
I'm on my way to the freedom land
I'm on my way, praise God
I'm on my way.

I asked my brother to come with me
I asked my brother to come with me
I asked my brother to come with me
I'm on my way, praise God
I'm on my way.

I asked my sister to come with me
I asked my sister to come with me
I asked my sister to come with me
I'm on my way, praise God
I'm on my way.

If they say no, I'll go alone
If they say no, I'll go alone
If they say no, I'll go alone
I'm on my way, praise God
I'm on my way.

I'm on my way, and I won't turn back
I'm on my way, and I won't turn back
I'm on my way, and I won't turn back
I'm on my way, praise God
I'm on my way.
http://www.songsforteaching.com/billharley/imonmyway.htm
-snip-

See this note from https://www.oldtownschool.org/resources/songnotes/songnotes_I.html :

"I'm On My Way
The Civil Rights movement in 1960s was the singingest movement in American history. Old African American spirituals like, “I Will Overcome,” “I'm On My Way to Canaan Land” and dozens of others were adapted by marchers and demonstrators throughout the South and across the nation. By design, the repetitive nature and “call back” structure of a spiritual make it ideal for improvised group singing."

Source: Sing for Freedom, edited and compiled by Guy and Candie Carawan. Sing Out! Publications.' Recordings on file by: Carter Family, Mahalia Jackson, Various artists".

**
Here's a sound file with a photo collage of Mahalia Jackson singing "I'm On My Way":

Posted by jahboyz3
August 17, 2008

****
I WOKE UP THIS MORNIN'
(based on an African American spiritual)

(Well I) woke up this mornin' with my mind
stayed
on freedom.
Woke up this mornin' with my mind,
stayed
on freedom.
Woke up this mornin' with my mind
stayed on freedom.
Hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah.

(Oh well) I walked and talked
talked and walked
with my mind
stayed
on freedom.
Walked and talked
talked and walked
with my mind
stayed on freedom.
I walked and talked
talked and walked
with my mind
stayed
on freedom.
Hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah.

(You know) I sing and shout
shout and sing
with my mind
stayed on freedom.
sing and shout
shout and sing
with my mind
stayed
on freedom.
Hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah.

Nobody gonna stop me
cause my mind's
stayed
on freedom
Nobody gonna stop me
cause my mind's
stayed on freedom.
Aint nobody gonna stop me
cause my mind's
stayed
on freedom.
Hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah.

Woke up this mornin' with my mind
stayed
on freedom.
Woke up this mornin' with my mind,
stayed
on freedom.
Woke up this mornin' with my mind
stayed
on freedom.
Hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah.

-snip-
The words in parenthesis are optional. Instead of those words, you can sing "Yes, I woke up this mornin' etc". Or you can just start with the "Woke up this mornin".

Civil rights songs are "open ended". Other verses can be added to these songs, or used in place of the more well known verses. For example, I've just recently added the fourth and fifth verses to this song because they just came to me. What verses can you think of for this song?

Here' are two videos of the church song "Woke Up This Mornin" (With My Mind Stayed On Jesus)

Pastor Jackson - "Woke Up This Morning"

ldyjcj2 | April 06, 2009
Pastor Jerome Jackson sings before giving his sermon.
Southern Mission Baptist Church, East St. Louis, IL

**
Bishop Leonard Scott - "Joy Medley"

aded by apostolicreturns on Dec 28, 2007

Chicago Sings Greatest Gospel Hymns;
Woke Up This Morning ...My Mind Stayed on Jesus; When All God's Children Get Together; I'm Glad To Be In The Service; I'm So Glad Jesus Lifted Me
http://www.bishoplscott.com/

-snip-
In contrast, here's a video of the civil rights song "Woke Up This Mornin" (With My Mind Stayed On Freedom)

Posted by anthonypepitoneVideo
May 27, 2007

K,L
LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING
(words composed by James Weldon Johnson; music composed by his brother John Rosemond Johnson)

Lift ev'ry voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list'ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast'ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Editor:

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lift_Every_Voice_and_Sing
"Lift Every Voice And Sing" - often called the "Black National Anthem" or the "Negro National Anthem" or the "African American Anthem" - is a song written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) and set to music by his brother James Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954) in 1900. It was first performed in public in the Johnsons' hometown of Jacksonville, Florida as part of a celebration of Lincoln's Birthday on February 12, 1900 by a choir of 500 schoolchildren at the segregated Stanton School, where James Weldon Johnson was principal. Singing this song quickly became a way for African Americans to demonstrate their patriotism and hope for the future. In calling for earth and heaven to "ring with the harmonies of Liberty," they could speak out subtly against racism and Jim Crow laws — and especially the huge number of lynchings accompanying the rise of the Ku Klux Klan at the turn of the century. In 1919, the NAACP adopted the song as "The Negro National Anthem." By the 1920s, copies of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" could be found in black churches across the country, often pasted into the hymnals. During and after the American Civil Rights Movement, the song experienced a rebirth, and by the 1970's was often sung immediately after The Star Spangled Banner at public events and performances across the United States where the event had a significant African-American population."
-snip-
There was a time when this song was taught in most public schools that were attended by African American children. However, increasingly fewer younger people know the words of this song. Also, it was traditional for everyone to stand up while singing this song (the same way people are supposed to stand up while singing the American national anthem). Similarly males were also supposed to take off their hats, just as they were supposed to do for the American national anthem out of respect for our ancestors and out of respect for what the words of those songs convey. o. Unfortunately, I've noticed that none of these customs have been practiced for years.

Here is the traditional version of "Lift Every Voice And Sing":

Chicago Children's Choir - Lift Every Voice And Sing

Chicago Children's Choir 12/15/2007

-snip-

There are MANY different "contemporary" renditions of tLift Every Voice & Sing" on YouTube. Here are two renditions of that song which have slightly faster and sllightly different tunes than the traditional version of the song.

Ray Charles & The Raelettes -"Lift Every Voice & Sing"

Uploaded by cavettbiter on Feb 13, 2009

From The Dick Cavett Show. September 18, 1972. The Raelettes are: Vernita Moss, Susaye Green, Mable John, Dorothy Berry, & Estella Yarbrough.

Here's a rendition of this song sung by R&B singer Kim Weston:

Uploaded by kurupt1968 on Jan 31, 2010

Free your mind. Love yourself. Dare to go against the grain. Live your life as it was meant to be lived.-Learn how to do well by doing good.-Educate, Empower, Unite.-MCMLXII

-snip-

Activist Reverend Jesse Jackson introduces Kim Weston. In that notice that the Black power symbol is done by all the people on the stage & many of those attending the event (the right arm is extended and raised almost to the level of your face, and that fist clenched) The Black power symbol was and is not traditional to "Lift Every Voice And Sing". However, included that symbol was and is symbolical of the spirit and intent of that Watstax festival.

M,N
MARCHING 'ROUND SELMA
Marching ‘round Selma like Jericho,
Jericho, Jericho
Marching ‘round Selma like Jericho
For segregation wall must fall
Look at people answering
To the Freedom Fighters call
Black, Brown and White American say
Segregation must fall
Good evening freedom’s fighters
Tell me where you’re bound
Tell me where you’re marching
“From Selma to Montgomery town
-snip-

See this note from http://www.negrospirituals.com/song.htm
"Sometimes the words of traditional Negro spirituals were slightly changed and adapted to special events. For example, the words of “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho (and the walls came tumbling down)” were changed into “Marching ‘round Selma”.

-snip-

Editor:
The 'n' in the word "Negro" was written in lower case on this website. I capitalized it because of my remembrances of the struggles in the 1950s and early 1960s to get this word capitalized like other racial and and national referents.

****
NO MORE AUCTION BLOCK FOR ME (also known as "Many Thousands Gone" )

No more auction block for me
No more, no more
No more auction block for me
Many thousands gone

No more driver's lash for me
No more, no more
No more driver's lash for me
Many thousands gone

No more pint of salt for me
No more, no more
No more pint of salt for me
Many thousands gone

No more auction block for me
No more, no more
No more auction block for me
Many thousands gone
-snip-

"No more Auction Block" (also known as "Many Thousand Gone") is a song composed as a marching song for black soldiers during the American Civil War. It takes on extra power when performed by Robeson. As an historical footnote, Bob Dylan would end up using elements of it's melody in his song "blowing in the Wind."

-snip-

Here's some information about "No More Auction Block" from http://www.expectingrain.com/dok/div/influences.html which differs on the origin of this song:
According to Bob Dylan, the tune of his song "Blowin' in the Wind" was based loosely on the traditional "No More Auction Blues," found on The Bootleg Series 1-3 (Note 4). The guitar part is certainly very similar, though I had listened to both songs many times without noticing the resemblance. The song, also known as "Many Thousands Gone," originated in Canada, where many blacks fled after Britain abolished slavery there in 1833, 30 years ahead of the United States.

O,P

OH FREEDOM
Oh-o freedom.
Oh-o freedom
Oh freedom over me,
(Over me.)
And before I be a slave
I'll be buried in my grave.
And go home to my Lord and be free.
(and be free.)

No segregation
No segregation
No more segregation
Over me
(Over me)
And before I be a slave
I'll be buried in my grave.
And go home to my Lord and be free.
(and be free.)

No more weepin
No more weepin
No more weepin
Over me
(Over me)
And before I be a slave
I'll be buried in my grave.
And go home to my Lord and be free.
(and be free.)

No more tommin *
No more tommin
No more tommin
Out of me
(Out of me)
And before I be a slave
I'll be buried in my grave.
And go home to my Lord and be free.
(and be free.)

Oh-o freedom.
Oh-o freedom
Oh freedom over me,
(Over me.)
And before I be a slave
I'll be buried in my grave.
And go home to my Lord and be free.
(and be free.)

Editor:
"When "Oh, Freedom" and other civil rights songs were sung during the civil rights movement the consequences of advocating and working for civil rights in some parts of the USA--and not just the Southern states--could literally be a death sentence.

I honor the courage and the determination of all those who have suffered and all those who died in the struggle to make the American dream a reality for all. That struggle continues."
-snip-
To demonstrate new verses can be added to civil rights songs, I added the verse "No more tommin to "Oh Freedom". This is not a "traditional" verse for this song.

"Tommin': (verb): " actions by a Black man or Black men which demonstrate any or extreme submissiveness toward a White person or White people (based on Harriet Beecher Stowe's fictitious character "Uncle Tom" in the book in Uncle Tom's Cabin). The female version of an "Uncle Tom" is an "Aunt Jemima".

**
Here's a video of the song "Oh Freedom":

posted by swflprof
May 02, 2008

"A Negro Spiritual with pictures from the Library of Congress and National Archives. I decided on this Spiritual after researching the National Archives for photographs of Slavery. This is a topic I felt should not be ignored, nor exloited, rather remembered lest we repeat history"

-snip-

Since the formal referent for Black Americans was changed from "Negro" to "African Americans" by at least the early 1970s, I prefer to use the phrase "African American spirituals".

Q,R,S

T,U,V
THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE
(An African American spiritual)

This little light of mine
I'm gonna let it shine.
This little little of mine
I'm gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine.
I'm gonna let it shine.
Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine.

Additional verses:
Everywhere I go. I'm gonna let it shine etc.

All in my life. etc.

Deep in my heart etc.

**
Verses of "This Little Light of Mine" used as a freedom song
(Thanks to AIE, 5/25/2009)*

[Oh] deep down in the South etc.

[Oh] We have the light of freedom etc.

[Oh] God gave it to us We're going to let it shine etc

All in the church etc

*AIE wrote Oh, this little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine". The word "Oh" was only used for the first line. I put the word "Oh" in brackets to denote that it could be omitted. Like other spirituals and freedom songs, "This Little Light Of Mine" has no fixed verses. Verses can be omitted to this song and other verses can be added.

**
Here is a video of "This Little Light Of Mine" sung as a gospel song:

Posted by danaeandrea
December 04, 2006

"Danae Andrea Howe singing with the POCC choir at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color Conference in Seattle- December 2, 2006 "

W.X,Y,Z
WE'LL NEVER TURN BACK

Editor: This is my transcription of this song as sung in the video provided below:. My apologies for any mistakes I made in this transcription.

We been 'buked
And we been scorned.
We been talked about
Sure as you born.

But we'll never turn back.
No, we'll never turn back.
Until we've all been freed.
And we'll have equality.

We have hung our heads and cried
Cried for (Jesus Christ who died)?
He died for you and He died for me.
Died for the cause of equality.

But we'll never turn back.
No, we'll never turn back.
Until we've all been freed.
And we'll have equality.
And we'll have equalit-e-e.[elongate this word]

**
Here's the video of this song from which I based my transcription:

We'll Never Turn Back (SNCC Freedom Singers, Chicago 2007)

Posted byJoeGermuska
January 19, 2008

"From a performance on 10 Nov 2007 at Woodson Regional Library, Chicago, IL Presented by Chicago Area Friends of SNCC and the SNCC History Project "
-snip-
"SNCC" stands for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Click this link to find out more about this organization which was was one of the principal organizations of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Student_Nonviolent_Coordinating_Committee

The first verse of "We'll Never Turn Back" borrows the words, but not the tune, of the African American spiritual "I Been 'Buked And I Been Scorned". ""Buked" is a short form of the word 'rebuked'.

****
WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED
(based on an African American early Gospel song "I Shall Not Be Moved")

We shall not, we shall not be moved
(shall not be)
We shall not, we shall not be moved
Just like a tree that's planted by the water,
We shall not be moved.

We're fighting for our rights (and)
we shall not be moved
(shall not be)
We're fighting for our rights and
we shall not be moved
Just like a tree that's planted by the water,
We shall not be moved.

We shall all be free (and)
we shall not be moved
(shall not be)
We shall all be free (and)
we shall not be moved
Just like a tree that's planted by the water,
We shall not be moved.

God is on our side (and)
we shall not be moved
(shall not be)
God is on our side (and)
we shall not be moved
Just like a tree that's planted by the water,
We shall not be moved.

Black and White together
we shall not be moved
(shall not be)
Black and White together
we shall not be moved
Just like a tree that's planted by the water,
We shall not be moved.

We shall not, we shall not be moved
(shall not be)
We shall not, we shall not be moved
Just like a tree that's planted by the water,
We shall not be moved.
-snip-
Remember that the words to Spirituals & Early Gospel songs aren't fixed & therefore could be (and can be) adapted to fit specific situations. Here's an adaptation of this song that was used as a motivational union song:

"We shall not, we shall not be moved
We shall not, we shall not be moved
We'll building a mighty union,
We shall not be moved"
-Online source: http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/7840/song6.htm
-snip-
"I Shall Not Be Moved" is a late 19th century or early 20th century African American Gospel song. This song and other African American early Gospel songs & Spirituals have a words that can easily be exchanged which facilitate their use for multiple situations. These types of compositions are known as "zipper songs". Because of that characteristic, the title of the religious song "I Shall Not Be Moved" was changed to "We Shall Not Be Moved" and different adaptations of this song were sung at pro-union rallies and at the 1960s civil rights rallies & marches.

Similarly, the religious song "I'll Overcome" was retitled "We Shall Overcome" and versions of that song were sung at union rallies & at civil rights marches & rallies. The tunes for those religious song were retained but the tempos of the religious song often was changed for its secular adaptations.

Here's a video of Bluesman Mississippi John Hurt singing the religious song "I Shall Not Be Moved":

i shall not be moved - Mississippi John Hurt

hirkyjerky, Uploaded on Oct 9, 2009
-snip-
My transcription of the lyrics to that version of "I Shall Not Be Moved" are found on my pancocojams blog at http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/06/mississippi-john-hurt-i-shall-no...

**
Here's a video of R&B/Gospel singer Mavis Staples singing a rendition of "We Shall Not Be Moved" that is geared to the union movement:

Posted by nettiboy, July 30, 2008

"Mavis Staple live in Milan at the Milano Jazzin' Festival, Arena Civica - 29 July 2008"

****
WE SHALL OVERCOME
(This civil rights song is based on the African American gospel song composed by an African American Methodist minister Charles Albert Tindley "I'll Overcome Someday" also known as "I'll Be Alright Someday".)

We shall overcome, we shall overcome
We shall overcome someday
Oh-o deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome someday

We shall all be free
We shall live all be free
We shall all be free someday
Oh-o deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome someday

Black and White together
Black and White together
Black and White together someday
Oh-o deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome someday

We'll walk hand in hand
We'll walk hand in hand
We'll walk hand in hand someday
Oh-o deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome someday

The truth shall make us free
truth shall make us free
The truth shall make us free someday
Oh-o deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome someday

We are not afraid
We are not afraid
We are not afraid today
Oh-o deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome someday

Editor:
Here is some information about the civil rights song "We Shall Overcome":

"When "We Shall Overcome" ...first came to the Highlander Folk School via the Food and Tobacco Workers Union in 1946, it was a spiritual titled "I'll Be Alright Someday." HFS Cultural Director Zilphia Horton - along with those workers - adapted it to the struggles of the labor movement at the time, and began using the new version - "We Will Overcome" - at every meeting. She taught it to Pete Seeger the following year. He changed the "will" to "shall" and took it around the world. It became considered the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement, though, when Guy Carawan got folks singing it at a rally in South Carolina. It's since been sung around the world."

http://folkmusic.about.com/od/toptens/tp/CivilRightsSong.htm

**
For an historical overview, see http://www.pipeline.com/~rgibson/overcomehistory.html

**
Visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Albert_Tindley for information on Charles Albert Tindley the composer of "I'll Overcome Someday".

**
Here's a video of an African American congregation in South Carolina singing "I'll Overcome Someday":

I'll Overcome Someday

Posted by Hymnchoir
November 05, 2008
"This is the original version out of which grew "We Shall Overcome". Recorded by KB at St Paul Baptist Ch in Lowrys, SC (South Carolina)

-snip-

The way this church congregation sings this song is how I imagine African American worship services were like during slavery times in the American South. Notice the percussive foot stomping, the call & response singing, the improvisational nature of the singing, the spontaneous movements of the first lead singer who is standing and other members of the congregation who remain seated. Notice how other lead singers continue the song from their seats in what seems to be an unplanned way. Also notice the spontaneous spoken affirmations ("shouts") throughout the song, and the period of tetifying (giving praise/shouts) while the percussive foot stomping continues and then the song starts up again.

Hearing and seeing this is almost like experiencing a part of African American history that should be treasured but is scarcely even known.

Most Black Baptist churches I've attended in the North don't sing like this. I have attended some COCIG (Church of God In Christ) services in the North that were similar to this. I wonder if more Black churches in the Southern region of the USA sing like this than Black churches in any other regiion of the USA..

-snip-

"I'll Overcome Someday" is played on the piano and sung at a moderately fast tempo by the vocalist in this next video (which has an excellant photo-collage of historical African American photographs).

Posted by carolynyair
October 01, 2009

"Charles Albert Tindley Gospel "I'll Overcome Someday". Singer: Carolyn Disnew-Zameret. All pictures are of Afro-American slaves and ex-slaves

-snip-

Here's an excerpt from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Albert_Tindley:

"[Charles Albert] Tindley was a noted songwriter and composer of gospel hymns and is recognized as one of the founding fathers of American gospel music. Five of his hymns appear in the revised Methodist hymnal, which is used worldwide. His composition "I'll Overcome Someday"[1] is credited by some observers to be the basis for the U.S. Civil Rights anthem "We Shall Overcome,". The song "We Shall Overcome" was composed by artists at the Highlander Folk School in 1947: Tindley's song had been brought to the school in the 1930s by tobacco workers from Charleston, South Carolina. Zilphia Horton, cultural worker and educator, taught the song at the school, where others, such as Pete Seager, Guy Carawan, heard it. They altered Tindley's refrain "I'll Overcome Someday" to "We Shall Overcome" and the song was slowed down to be sung as a march hymn."

-snip-

"We Shall Overcome" was usually sung while people stood and held the hands of the persons standing at their side and swayed right & left in time with the music. When folks stood and held hands while singing "We Shall Overcome", their arms were criss-crossed at their waists, with the person on each side holding another individual's. My sense is that this symbolized unity & determination. I believe the proper way of doing this is for the right arm to be above the left arm, but I'm not certain about that. I don't think that this style of holding hands and singing was done for other civil rights songs. But since I really wasn't in the freedom movement, I'm also not sure about that.

Here's a link to a video of members of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee showing how to do the right over left crossed arms style for singing "We Shall Overcome":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gn7MOR1zpgw&feature=related

Singing "We Shall Overcome" and other civil rights songs strengthened the resolve of protesters during their civil rights demonstrations. People who were jailed because of their participation in the civil rights movement also sang "We Shall Overcome" and other freedom songs as testimony to their cause, to reinforce their spirit of unity with other protestors, and as a way of keeping up their courage.

"We Shall Overcome" has been sung throughout the world to commemorate the African American civil rights movement, other civil rights movements, and/or as a song of unity.

**
Mahalia Jackson singing "We Shall Overcome" -Live late 1960's

Posted by elfeco
February 25, 2007

Editor: Notice the gospel tone in this performance of "We Shall Overcome" which harkens back to the religious roots of this song.

Here's a post that I wrote about my personal memories associated with the song "We Shall Overcome".

MY MEMORIES OF THE SONG "WE SHALL OVERCOME"
This is a re-post of a comment I wrote in the Mudcat Discussion Forum thread entitled "60's music and spirituality"

Click http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=76784#1364323 here to read the entire thread.

"I had the honor of hearing Dr. Martin Luther King preach at my home church in Atlantic City, New Jersey in the 1960s. This may have been immediately prior to or during the Democratic Convention and the protest efforts of Fanny Lou Hammer and the Freedom Democratic Party. Or it may have been before the 1963 March on Washington.

My church, Union Baptist Temple, was a center of the both efforts in Atlantic City, and I distinctly remember an African American choir from the South singing the gospel version of "We Shall Overcome" there. Their rendition of "We'll Overcome" was much faster than the civil rights version, but had similar words. No one held hands to sing that song. Instead the song was sung with handclap {and piano/organ} accompaniment. This precluded the holding hands with those next to you in the criss crossed fashion that is symbolic of the civil rights version of "We Shall Overcome". I mean no disparagement of the unifying symbolism of such hand holding and moving side to side while singing that Civil Rights song. It works, at least on an ephemeral level to show people that we are linked together...

But the spirit that I felt from the Gospel singing of "We'll Overcome" was so much more.

As I wrote in another thread, that Southern church choir reminded us so-called "Middle class" African Americans from the North of the difficult life threatening conditions that they constantly face and that our ancestors faced in the South. They exhorted us to put our souls in our singing and not worry about form and fashion.

That singing was a real spiritual experience for me.

I also had the honor of attending the 1963 March On Washington. However, there were so many thousands of people there and I was so very far away from the stage, that I was not aware that Joan Baez or anyone else sang "We Shall Overcome" at event.

The atmosphere at the March On Washington was carnival-like in the best sense of that word. There was a feeling of disregard for those things that normally separate people from each other such as race, age, and economic class. You could feel the energy of so many people united in a positive cause. It felt good. That also was a spiritual experience for me, and I dare say for -most of the others there as well."
-Azizi Powell, 12/27/2004

****
COMMENTS ABOUT DESIGNATNG SONGS AS "SPIRITUALS" OR "GOSPELS"
Which African American religious songs are "spirituals" and which songs are "gospels" can be somewhat muddy. However, it's my experience that most African Americans consider "spirituals" to be those religious songs scomposed by (usually anonymous) African Americans prior to the end of the United States civil war (1865).

With the exception of anthems, African American religious songs which have known composers and which are composed after 1865 are generally considered to be "gospels". However, some traditional spirituals can be sung as gospels (meaning, sung in a Black gospel style). Also, some contemporary gospel songs may be composed in a style that is reminiscent of traditional African American spirituals. Fred Hammond's "When The Spirit Of The Lord" is an example of this. Click http://www.lyricskeeper.com/fred_hammond-lyrics/205266-when_the_spirit_o... for the lyrics to that song:

****
ADDITIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS SONGS:

I have posted additional songs related to the civil rights movement on Cocojams.com' sister website http://www.jambalayah.com/. An example of those videos is
http://www.jambalayah.com/node/98 The Staple Singers "Freedom Highway"

**
SOME ADDITIONAL ONLINE RESOURCES ON AFRICAN AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS SONGS
http://folkmusic.about.com/od/toptens/tp/CivilRightsSong.htm

http://rs6.loc.gov/ammem/aaohtml/exhibit/aopart9b.html

Odetta - A tribute to the Voice of the Civil Rights Movement
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzyBvMuccyw

Keep your eyes on the prize" also known as "Hold On": http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?ThreadID=4136

http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/strangefruit/civilrights.html

****
Send the words to additional civil rights sngs (freedom songs) or other versions of the songs that are already listed to cocojams17@yahoo.com for possible posting on this site. Also, use that email address to send in any comments, questions, information, about any video links to English language civil rights songs.

Your email address is never posted or shared.

Thanks!

Or, if you are on facebook, visit me at cocojams jambalayah, and befriend me, or send me a private message!

****

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/ to visit my blog.

Pancocojams is an eclectic mix of information, comments, and videos about the histories, cultures, and customs of African Americans & other People of Color. The name "pancocojams" reflects this site's wide range of topics. The name "pancocojams" also reflects this blog's connection to my http://www.cocojams.com website.

Please visit and comment on this blog!

-Ms. Azizi Powell,
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
latest revision September 5, 2011

****

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