The Music of Social Movements

A Lesson Plan With Music Links

Music and song offer a unique way to bind people together. From the National Endowment for the Humanities, here’s a lesson plan geared to high school students about the songs of the civil rights movement.

The Freedom Riders and the Popular Music of the Civil Rights Movement includes preparation instructions, suggested activities, and an outline for assessment.Here’s the blurb for the lesson plan:

The participants of the civil rights movement recognized the power of song and performance and utilized this form of cultural communication in their quest for equal justice under law… Through collaborative activities and presentations, students will find the meaning behind the music and compare and contrast the major figures, documents, and events of the day to better understand the political and cultural messages.

The lesson also includes lots of resources. You can link to Freedom Sounds from Smithsonian Folkways (also available here),  where you can play featured songs for free — including Fannie Lou Hamer singing This Little Light of Mine and Paul Robeson singing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

For your own enrichment, you might also look at the background essay, The Sixties and Protest Music by Kerry Candaele, provided by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

We’ll follow up this week with more examples of music as a binding and healing community resource.

(Image of Fannie Lou Hamer by Adair733. Used under Creative Commons License CC BY-ND 2.0)


The Resources

Candaele, K. (2012, Summer). The Sixties and Protest Music. History Now 32. Retrieved from http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-now.

National Endowment for the Humanities. (2011). EDSITEment ‘Created Equal’ Project. Retrieved from https://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plan.

Rosemann, S.V. (2016). Freedom Sounds from Smithsonian Folkways. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved from http://www.folkways.si.edu.

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