The Folk Music Of The Civil Rights Movement

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Response Paper #4 The folk music of the Civil Rights Movement “came out of tradition, common experience, and generations of resistance” (Dunaway 2010: 140). The songs used throughout the movement derived from the shared experiences and struggles of African Americans while connecting “the gentle, idealistic world of folk music and the integrationist world of civil rights” (Dunaway 2010: 145). Songs, such as “We Shall Overcome”, were put through the folk process, where a song is passed on and alterations are made to verses (Dunaway 2010: 141). These folk songs evolved to embody the movements they were used for: “Those songs came out of the movement. The songs came out of very specific movements” (Dunaway 2010: 139). Folk music, which can…show more content…
Due to the folk process, the style and performance of the song changed depending on where the song was used and who was performing it: “We Shall Overcome” in Albany loosened way up with lots of space for improvisations, lots of antiphony and answering and calling, and it stayed that way in terms of the black movement in the South wherever it went after that. So Albany to a large extent took all the music that had been done up to that point, and transformed it” (Dunaway 2010, 139-140).
“We Shall Overcome” is a folk song because it “came out of tradition, common experience, and generations of resistance” (Dunaway 2010: 140). The song’s origins are unclear, but can be traced back to a song that slaves had sung while working and old church songs that were never written down until 1900. Additionally, the adaptability and flexibility of the song’s structure can be found in other folk songs during the Civil Rights Movement: “The evolution of “We Shall Overcome” from a religious folk song to the anthem of the integration movement is a case study of folk process” (Dunaway 2010, 141).
The commercialization of “We Shall Overcome” would have taken away all of the power that the song possesses and its significance in the Civil Rights Movement. The beauty of folk music is its freedom, not its marketability: “The music was neither academic nor commercial; it was not generated simply to
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