15 Songs About Racism & Civil Rights For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day [VIDEOS]

Oh Freedom!

We Shall Not Be Moved by Marvis Staples

A song of determination that helped to bolster the civil rights movement in America.

Go Tell It On The Mountain by The Wailers (Peter Tosh on Vocals)

Go Tell It On The Mountain is a gospel song that uses biblical analogies and the story of Moses freeing the Jews from Egypt as an analogy for Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement. This version substitutes “Set my people free” for “Jesus Christ is born.”

Amazing Grace by Whitney Houston (Live at Johanesbug)

Amazing Grace: The Story Behind The Song

A short documentary telling the story behind the creation of the hymn Amazing Grace by a former slave ship captain who ultimately became an abolitionist.

Lift Every Voice And Sing

Sometimes referred to as the Negro National Anthem, the song was written in 1900 by James Weldon Johnson.

Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday

Classic Billie Holiday song about lynching. Strange Fruit was one of the first anti-racism songs.

We Shall Overcome by Pete Seeger

Popularized by folk singer Pete Seeger, We Shall Overcome became the unofficial anthem of the civil rights movement.

Alabama by John Coletrane

The jazz great wrote Alabama in response to the bombing by the Ku Klux Klan in 1963 of the 16th Street Baptist church, which resulted in the death of four black girls. Coletrane is said to have used Martin Luther King Jr.’s cadence from the church bombing eulogy in the song.

Blowin’ In The Wind by Bob Dylan

Dylan reportedly adapted the melody for Blowin’ In The Wind from the old Negro spiritual, No More Auction Block.

The Times They Are A-Changin’ by Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s song was released in 1964 and written deliberately to be an anthem for change. It’s release preceded the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

A Change Is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke

A Change Is Gonna Come was written in 1963 and released in late 1964, shortly after Sam Cooke’s death. It was inspired in part by Bob Dylan’s song Blowin’ In The Wind. Cooke was amazed that such a poignant song about racism could’ve been written by a white man.

People Get Ready by Curtis Mayfield

People Get Ready was released in 1965 and reflects the growing confidence and optimism of the civil rights movement.

Southern Man by Neil Young

Releases in 1970, Southern Man is plea to the south to change it’s racist ways.

Alabama by Neil Young

Released in 1972, Alabama is a follow up to Southern Man and, again, an indictment of southern racism.

Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Sweet Home Alabama is a response to Neil Young’s two songs and was intended, according to singer Ronnie Van Zandt, to counter Young painting the entire south as racist with a broad brush. In this performance, Van Zandt says “Mr. Carter’s got the answer,” referring to President Jimmy Carter, which would tend to support Van Zandt’s argument. Disagreement, however, remains: Read more at Wikipedia.

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