AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: "Eyes on the Prize"
The website for "Eyes on the Prize," a landmark 14-part documentary covering the American Civil Rights Movement from 1954-1985, offers a rich assortment of audio clips, primary documents, timelines tracing the historical narrative of the movement, and other materials from a variety of people connected to the movement. Audio clips of such freedom songs as "I'm Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table" and "We Shall Overcome" are joined with short synopses explaining the historical context from which they arose. Get a more thorough understanding of the cultural and political reality of life in a segregated America by reading an Alabama Voters Registration Form from 1964-1965, or the personal account of one federal judge, J. Robert Elliott of Georgia, who stopped civil rights activists from marching peacefully in Albany, Georgia in 1962.

Explore a mixed media presentation of the issues surrounding the 1961 Freedom Rides and the civil rights movement in general, from the Southern legacy of "Jim Crow" laws and the struggles originally confronting the NAACP, to the well-organized and ultimately successful strategy of non-violent protest. View video extras from the film "Freedom Riders" that discuss such topics as the music of the 1961 Freedom Rides, which often include interviews with many of the civil rights activists featured in "Soundtrack for a Revolution." Biographies and pictures of the main players who partook in the 1961 Freedom Rides, the civil rights movement, and certain leaders of the U.S. federal government are also included on the website.

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: "George Wallace: Settin' The Woods on Fire"
From AMEX's documentary about the four-time Alabama governor George Wallace, read a detailed account of the March 25, 1965 march led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama.

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: "Jubilee Singers: Sacrifice and Glory"
Article, lyrics, and audio clips of the Fisk University Jubilee Singers, the first group to publicly perform the songs of African American slaves in the late 1800s.

Bucknell University: "Ask the Experts: Barry Long on civil rights and music"
Read this interview and discussion with Bucknell Professor of Music about the connections between the civil rights movement and music.

Library of Congress: African American Odyssey
See the Library of Congress' online exhibition about the history of African-Americans, ending with the Civil Rights Movement, well illustrated with photographs and documents.

NPR Music: "Songs of the Civil Rights Movement"
From a January 2010 article, listen to the jazz and jazz/blues versions of some of the songs that sustained the civil-rights movement in the 1960s (and beyond) by Sam Cooke, Nina Simone, and Grant Greene among others.

PBS: "In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement"
Straight from the White House, this special event featured songs from the civil rights movement performed by top contemporary entertainers, as well as readings from famous civil rights speeches and writings.

PBS: This Far By Faith, 1967-Today
Discover and understand the African American religious experience in the years from 1967 to the present in this thorough exploration of black liberation theology, church burnings, and more.

Pennsylvania State University and WPSU-FM: "Race Matters: The Role of Music in Civil Rights"
A video recording of discussion that covers the history of African-American spiritual music from slavery up to the civil rights movement.

The Sixties Project
A site created by humanities professors that features primary documents, personal histories, and college teaching syllabi. Also featured are galleries of 1960s buttons, political posters and a comic book written by Julian Bond.

University of California Davis Television: "Civil Rights: The Music and the Movement"
This video recording features an April 2009 panel discussion about music in the civil rights movement.

The University of Denver: "Sweet Chariot: The Story of the Spirituals"
This site covers the progression of African-American spirituals dating back from 17th century slavery to the civil rights era.

Washington University Film & Media Archive: "Eyes on the Prize Interviews"
From Washington University, this comprehensive site presents all of the interviews from "Eyes on the Prize," PBS' 14-part series on the Civil Rights Movement from 1954-1985, digitized and available with full text search capability.

We Shall Overcome: Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement
A collaboration between the National Park Service and the Federal Highway Administration, this site presents photographs, maps and information about places with relevance to the movement, as well as the Selma to Montgomery March National Historic Trail.

WGBH OpenVault: "Civil Rights March, Selma to Montgomery"; "Andrew Young Speaks at Harvard University"
(Free registration required) Over 14 minutes of original, raw footage from the 1965 civil rights march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama. Listen and hear protestors sing "We Shall Overcome" and other prominent freedom songs.
Video excerpt of Andrew Young discussing political activism and the civil rights movement at Harvard University in December 1977.


Branch, Taylor. Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988.

-----. Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.

-----. At Canaan's Edge: American in the King Years 1965-68. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006.

Carawan, Candie and Guy. Sing for Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Its Songs. Montgomery:    NewSouth Books, 2007.

Holsaert, Faith S., Martha Prescod Norman Noonan, Judy Richardson, eds., [et al.]. Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010.

Lewis, John and Micahel D'Orso. Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.

Love, Nancy S. Musical Democracy. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. "Civil Rights and Black Protest Music." In Civil Rights Since 1787: a Reader on the Black Struggle, eds. Jonathon Birnbaum and Clarence Taylor. New York: New York University Press, 2000. 

Reiser, Bob, Pete Seeger, and Jesse Jackson. Everybody Says Freedom: A History of the Civil Rights Movement in Songs and Pictures. W. W. Norton & Company: New York, 1989.

Sanger, Kerran L. "When the Spirit Says Sing!": The Role of Freedom Songs in the Civil Rights Movement. New York: Garland, 1995.

Spencer, Jon Michael. Protest & Praise: Sacred Music of Black Religion. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990.

Various Artists. Sing for Freedom [sound recording]: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through its Songs. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Folkways; Distributed by Rounder Records, 1990.

Various Artists. Voices of the Civil Rights Movement [sound recording]: Black American Freedom Songs, 1960-1966. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Folkways, 1997.

Walker, Wyatt Tee. "Somebody's Calling My Name": Black Sacred Music and Social Change. Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1979.

Watson, Bruce. Freedom Summer: The Savage Season That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy. New York: Viking, 2010.

Weissman, Dick. Which Side Are You On?: An Inside History of the  Folk Music Revival in America. New York: Continuum, 2005.

My American Experience

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Share Your Story

Songs like "We Shall Overcome" and "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round" gave civil rights activists the will, passion and solidarity to stand up against racial inequality. What do these songs mean to you? Do you ever sing them today? Do you hear them?