Published on January 9th, 2018 | by Nicole Vear

#Musicofamovement – Celebrating Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Through song (Part 1)

After the New Year’s celebrations, the first national, and one might contend, international holiday that is celebrated is that of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. Dr. King has been celebrated posthumously more so than in life. Dr. King’s sacrifice mirrored the struggle for freedom that defines Black history in America, but most poignantly the 1950s and 1960s.

As a great leader in a movement of many, Dr. King was not alone in facing racism, its policies, its actions or the people who carried its mission. In response, Dr. King organized, preached and sacrificed his life using physical and spiritual resources to gather and help mobilize the affected. Within the many people and organizations that molded the Civil Rights Movement, a great number of tactics and mediums were used to move the masses to action. Of those many, gospel music was a powerful force.

This musical genre of what is dubbed as the “singing Movement”, helped keep the keep the flame blowing in the spirit of the people and solidified it as a tool for activism. The music was a cultural and spiritual catalyst in the Freedom movement. Gospel as a language of working class people and to those suffering, was made relevant to the times. The church as a meeting place, going as far back as before Emancipation, was translated to the meeting places, conventions, walking protests, sit-ins and anywhere people were organizing.

So, as we come close to the day of observance of Dr. King’s day of birth, we highlight the various sounds and people that molded and directed the spirit of the masses to organize and maintain spiritual energy to endure during the 1960s. We welcome you to indulge below in the “Music of a Movement”. The songs featured in the first installment are the songs that stood the test of time and defined the Civil Rights Movement.


“Get on Board Children” – Willie Peacock

“We Shall Not Be Moved” – Mavis Staples

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” (1974) Sounds of Blackness

“Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” – Sweet Honey in the Rock

“We Shall Overcome” – Pete Seeger

“Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around” – Sweet Honey In The Rock

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