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A Playlist for the Movement

This hour and a half episode of Teaching Hard History, a podcast produced by Teaching Tolerance, features host Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries (Associate Professor of History at The Ohio State University) in conversation with Dr. Charles L. Hughes (a historian, author, and the Director of the Lynne and Henry Turley Memphis Center at Rhodes College). The pair reflects on how music serves as a narrative device to better understand social movements, especially in the context of the Civil Rights Movement, where activists relied on anthems to inspire and engage crowds and build resilience throughout a hard-fought struggle for equality. Hughes notes that songs like "We Shall Overcome" became anthems for meetings and protests, providing organizers an outlet to build up morale and to communicate their message to other onlookers. Another popular song from this period is James Brown's "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)," which Hughes considers "a product of the civil rights and Black power era," because the fact that radio stations were willing to play an anthem that called out anti-Blackness and called for Black empowerment was itself a win of the movement. Jeffries and Hughes also explore unique aspects of "freedom songs," including their call-and-response style, which is responsive to the input of the audience. Towards the end of their discussion, they also discuss more recent songs, including Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar's track "Freedom," which they consider a piece of modern-era politically conscious music reminiscent of the work of the artists' predecessors Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, the Staples Singers, and Nina Simone. They also end with a reflection on music's unique value in educational settings, noting that "music is one of the few points of entry into the lives of our students that we actually get."
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2021-01-08 17:46:42
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2021-01-13 10:49:16
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