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Bernice Johnson Reagon
Bernice Johnson Reagon
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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 early 2004.

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 Smithsonian.

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

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References and Reading:
Bernice Johnson Reagon's Web site
Visit Ms. Reagon's official Web site, featuring detailed biographical information, streaming audio, Ms. Reagon's upcoming appearances calendar, and further information about what Ms. Reagon is currently working on.

Sweet Honey on the Rock
Learn more about Sweet Honey on the Rock, the internationally-acclaimed women's a capella ensemble created by Ms. Reagon in 1973.

Sweet Chariot: the Story of the Spirituals
The Center for Teaching & Learning at the University of Denver presents this multimedia Web site exploring the history and legacy of spirituals in America.

The Spirituals Project
"The Spirituals Project is a broad-based initiative to explore the many, varied dimensions of African American spirituals as art form, tradition and tool; and to invite all people to experience the joy and power of this dynamic music and gift from African Americans to the world."

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
Explore an immense online audio library of folk music from around the world. "Through the dissemination of audio recordings and educational materials we seek to strengthen people's engagement with their own cultural heritage and to enhance their awareness and appreciation of the cultural heritage of others."

PBS: Africans in America
Ms. Reagon scored this four-part PBS series, produced by WGBH.

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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.

"...blacks and whites and other Americans who want to understand the meaning of the American experience need to remember lynching."

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