Music of the Civil Rights Era, 1954-1968

Unit of 3 Lessons
Grade Levels: 
Arts Education
Language Arts
Media / Technology
Social Studies
Issue Area: 
Focus Question 

How does an individual use personal interests and strengths to impact the common good? 


Photo Credit:  Malcolm Mays Lit Music Note by GnosiisMedia is licensed under CC by 2.0

Unit Overview 

The “freedom songs” became an important motivating force during the Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1968. In this unit, students explore the role of music in pulling people together around a cause. They will learn how many slave songs, gospel songs, folk songs and labor songs were collected, adapted, and taught to young civil rights activists. These songs fostered courage, unity and hope within the Civil Rights Movement. They may interview people of different generations to learn more about the aesthetics of music and design a service experience related to music.  

Service Experience 
Students may perform music for a local community group as a philanthropic event. Students may interview people living in a retirement community (or the staff) about favorite music and create a play list to brighten the mind and spirit of someone. Students may work with another school on a project to “Bridge the Gap” between diverse communities. Students will illustrate what diversity looks like to them and draw and color it on one large piece of paper.  
Lessons in This Unit 
Music of the Civil Rights Era, 1954-1968
Lesson 2 of 3

Music may bring joy or it may help people reflect on their feelings. The "freedom songs" may have motivated the Civil Rights activists as they sought to aid the common good, and we can bring music to someone in the community as a gift of generosity and inspiration.