We Shall Overcome: The Long Road from “Strange Fruit” to Equality

Jennifer Davis

Abstract


Music was important to the Civil Rights Movement because it brought protestors together and provided them with emotions needed to stay strong in the face of brutality. Lyrics point at the group or institution to blame for hardships of African Americans, which kept the movement going. Since music provides these three ingredients to a successful movement, it is key to unlock the doors of change. “Strange Fruit” performed by Billie Holiday put the spotlight on lynching and made listeners face the truth of the ugly institution of segregation. A few years later, a fourteen-year-old named Emmett Till was brutally murdered by three white men in Mississippi. It was event so gruesome that it outraged the moderate and liberal community throughout the nation and led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott three months later. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s effort to integrate Birmingham, called Project Confrontation, caused him to be arrested and write the famous “A Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Lastly, the Selma to Montgomery March had two notable songs sung while the marches were on the road: “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and “We Shall Overcome.”


Keywords


Civil Rights Movement; Music; History; Lynching; Equality

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