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Civil Rights on the B-Side

The Kennedy Center's series Of Thee We Sing explores how music shaped the early years of the Civil Rights Movement. In this 15-minute clip, host Jean Cochran describes a trove of civil rights music just recently discovered on the "B-side" of records. Cochran gets insights from a distinguished panel of guests: Dr. Dwandalyn Reece (curator of music and performing arts at the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture), Robert Marovich (Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Gospel Music), Dr. Robert Darden (a professor focusing on communications arts at Baylor University), and Dr. Birgitta Johnson (a professor in the School of Music at the University of South Carolina). These guests answer the question, why did artists record music on the "B-side" of records? In part, artists were protecting themselves from the threats that accompanied speaking up and singing loud about civil rights issues. The "B-side" served as a secret vessel for artists to bring fans their movement music as a "special message." Below the episode audio and transcript, readers will find two additional resources. The first is a link to the gospel song "Where Is Freedom," performed by the Friendly Four. The second, Civil Rights and the 1950s: Crash Course US History, explores some of the early work of the Civil Rights Movement, specifically looking at school segregation, bus boycotts, and the formation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
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