Project "C" in Birmingham
You Better Leave Segregation Alone
Songwriters: Little Willie John, Titus Turner, James McDougal ("Leave My Little Kitten Alone") with new lyrics by James Bevel and Bernard LaFayette
Performed by: The Nashville Quartet
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The tactic of Christian non-violence made a big impact on public opinion. Seeing unarmed, unresisting black people dragged by police, jeered at by white mobs and attacked by vicious police dogs or powerful fire hoses, viewers naturally sympathized with the protesters.
The ironically titled "You Better Leave Segregation Alone" made the contrast explicit:
You better leave segregation alone
Because they love segregation
Like a hound dog loves a bone.
Racists had long compared blacks to animals, but this song turned the tables, likening segregationists to dogs. The lyrics reinforced what viewers saw on the television news.
Drawing on the pop charts, the melody of the song was borrowed from a rock and roll tune, "Leave My Little Kitten Alone," with new lyrics by James Bevel and Bernard LaFayette.
For more on music and the movement, read comments by Bernice Johnson Reagon.
Music courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, www.si.edu/ folkways.