Civil Rights Movement Music

27 Aug

MLK at March on Washington
Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and I’m taking the day off work to hang out on the National Mall and hopefully feel a fraction of what it was like in 1963.

Ian and I sat on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday at the end of a pre-anniversary event. I tried to imagine 250,000 people filling every visible space around the Reflecting Pool, sitting in the trees, braving the heat to take a stand. I tried to imagine hundreds of buses lined up, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s voice echoing down to the Washington Monument. Can you imagine?

Admittedly, I knew very little about the event until I got to Smithsonian Folkways. One of my first assignments was to research the march, the speakers and the music and compile a commemoration playlist. Folkways released an LP the same year, We Shall Overcome: Documentary of the March on Washington, but I was instructed to dig through other protest songs, spirituals and speeches.

It was so inspiring to hear these songs: words and melodies that powered a movement, empowered a national community. The music of the Civil Rights Movement existed to unite and uplift.

[Or listen on Smithsonian Folkways]

march on washington anniversary eventwashington monument from the lincoln memorial


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