November 23, 2007
"There's nothing like hearing a spiritual without understanding that it's a radical statement."
--Bernice Johnson Reagon
Performer, activist, songwriter and scholar, Bernice Johnson Reagon has for over 40 years been singing, preaching and teaching traditional African American music and its cultural history.
"When we sing, we announce our existence," Reagon explains to Bill Moyers in their 1991 program entitled, THE SONGS ARE FREE. "Singing is running this sound through your body. You cannot sing a song and not change your condition."
In 1973, Ms. Reagon founded the African American woman a cappella
ensemble, Sweet Honey In The Rock, and for 30 years, served as the artistic director, performer, songwriter, and producer for many of the group's recordings, retiring in
Starting in 1974, Bernice Johnson Reagon served as curator for the Smithsonian Institute, helping to develop the Peabody Award-winning radio
program WADE IN THE WATER: AFRICAN AMERICAN SACRED MUSIC TRADITIONS for National Public Radio and the Smithsonian . Since 1993, Ms. Reagon has served as curator emeritus at the
Listen to samples from the album, WADE IN THE WATER
Ms. Reagon composed the score for the four-part PBS series, AFRICANS IN AMERICA: AMERICA'S JOURNEY THROUGH SLAVERY, in 1998, which also received a Peabody award.
Among Ms. Reagon's many awards and recognitions include the MacArthur Fellowship (1989), the Presidential Medal (1995) and the Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities (2003).
Published on November 23, 2007