Introduction to Music of the Civil Rights Era

Grades: 
6, 7, 8

"Freedom songs" were an important motivating force during the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1968. Through music we explore the important figures in the Civil Rights Movement and their contribution to the common good.

Lesson Rating 
0
Duration 
PrintOne 45-Minute Session
Objectives 
  • Summarize important ideas and events of the Civil Rights Movement and describe how Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr. sacrificed for the benefit of the common good.
  • Describe the role of famous “freedom songs” representative of the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-68.
Materials 
  • recordings of freedom songs: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, This Little Light of Mine, and We Shall Overcome
Home Connection 

Contact grandparents or other adult about the Civil Rights Era to speak to the group about their memories and participation. 

Bibliography 
  • Don’t Mourn…Organize. Songs of Labor Songwriter Joe Hill. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian/Folkways Records, 1990. Sound recording. ASIN: B000001DHC
  • Freedom Is A Constant Struggle: Songs of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement. Folk Era Productions Inc., 1994. Audio CD. ASIN: B00000182V
  • Phillips, Utah. Rebel Voices: Songs of the Industrial Workers of the World. Performed by the members of Entertainment Workers IU 630, IWW. Chicago: Flying Fish, 1987. Sound recording.
  • Seeger, Pete. We Shall Overcome: Complete Carnegie Hall Concert, June 8, 1963. Sony, 1989. Audio CD. ASIN: B0000026V0
  • Seeger, Pete, Si Kahn and Jane Sapp. Carry It On: Songs of America’s Working Class People. Flying Fish Records, 1992. Audio CD. ASIN: B000000MF2
  • Sing for Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement through Its Songs. Smithsonian/Folkways, 1990. Audio CD, July 13, 1992. ASIN: B000001DHL

Instructions

Print
  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Play a recording of the song, “We Shall Overcome.” Discuss the meaning and context of the song in the Civil Rights Movement.

  2. Together, research and read about the Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1968. What was the goal of the movement and how does the movement relate to making the world a better place? Have the goals been achieved today?

  3. Discuss the important roles of Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Discuss the importance of hearing all voices in a community and respecting their right to be heard.

  4. Play recordings and sing along with the following “freedom songs.”

    • Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
    • We Shall Overcome
    • This Little Light of Mine

    Discuss the words of the songs and talk about the words that give clues to the goals of the people in the movement. 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.

  5. Connect and Reflect: What current songs have lyrics that say what you are feeling and inspire you to take action for the good of all?

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Discuss why some animals and humans will sacrifice for the benefit of unknown others.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Describe the importance of hearing all voices in a community and respecting their right to be heard.
      2. Benchmark MS.5 Discuss examples of groups denied their rights in history.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.