Music from the Civil Rights Movement

Booh and I have enjoyed exploring songs from the Civil Rights movement, including:

  • This Little Light of Mine,” an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement and a song all children should learn as a source of inspiration as they face adversaries and hard times in this life.
  • We Shall Not Be Moved,” an African-American spiritual that was sung during the slave liberation movement and the Civil Rights Movement. A great song to teach your children as they learn to stand up for truth and justice.
  • If I Had a Hammer,” a song that’s been sung during the Labor Movement and the Civil Rights Movement
  • We Shall Overcome,” a song that originated back before the Civil War, that Pete Seeger and Joan Baez have been credited for popularizing.

Another great song that has become synonymous with the Civil Rights Movement is an African-American spiritual, “Oh Freedom,” which was sung by Joan Baez on the morning of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s great speech, “I Have a Dream.” Here’s a video of Joan Baez singing “Oh Freedom.”

“The fact that so many folksingers joined Dr. King in his effort to spread the word about civil rights was hugely relevant, not only because it brought a little added media attention to the effort, but also because it showed that there was a faction of the white community that was willing to stand up for the rights of African-Americans. The presence of folks like Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary, Odetta, Harry Belafonte, and Pete Seeger alongside Dr. King and his allies served as an omen to people of all colors, shapes, and sizes that we are all in this together.”*


Here’s a great playlist of additional songs that celebrate freedom and the Civil Rights Movement from recent independent musicians and well known artists:

  • Pete Seeger – “Dr. King on Violence” [Seeds: The Songs of Pete Seeger]
  • Buck Howdy – “This Little Light of Mine” [Giddyup!]
  • Tom Paxton – “Your Shoes, My Shoes” [Your Shoes, My Shoes]
  • Dan Zanes – “We Shall Not Be Moved” [House Party]
  • Dan Zanes – “Down By the Riverside” [Night Time!]
  • Ella Jenkins & Pete Seeger – “If I Had a Hammer” [Ella Jenkins & A Union of Friends Pulling Together]
  • Toots & the Maytals – “Freedom Train (Jamaica)” [World Playground 2]
  • The Deedle Deedle Dees – “Underground Railroad” [Freedom in a Box!]
  • Lori McKenna – “Ruby’s Shoes” [Paper Wings & Halo]
  • The SNCC Freedom Singers with Dorothy Cotton & Pete Seeger – “We Shall Overcome” [Smithsonian Folkways American Roots]
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