I'm Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table
Songwriter: Traditional, adapted by SNCC
Performed by: Hollis Watkins
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At first, the students at the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins remained silent, as a contrast to the jeers of the whites around them and to avoid arrest for disorderly conduct. Once they realized that they would be inevitably arrested, they introduced songs to their protests.
"I'm Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table" took a traditional religious tune and added contemporary verses by members of SNCC. The original spiritual lines, like "I'm gonna sit at the welcome table" and "I'm gonna walk these streets of glory," were matched with "I'm gonna sit at Woolworth's lunch counter." The contrast between the earthbound and the heavenly made the protesters' goals less elusive; their local sit-ins were the first step toward important changes in society.
For more on music and the movement, read comments by Bernice Johnson Reagon.
Music courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, www.si.edu/ folkways.