Power to the People

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Songwriter: Traditional, also called "Hold On", with new lyrics by Alice Wine
Performed by: Robert Parris Moses

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"Keep Your Eyes on the Prize" serves as a fitting theme to the Civil Rights Movement.

First, the movement was made up of individuals who came together to advocate for a more just society. Thousands of these people stayed focused on that prize, "holding on" in the face of tactics that included arrest, assault, and even murder.

Second, although leaders like Martin Luther King are closely identified with the movement, the goal of equality was more than any single person's dream. It required a transformative process for the nation.

Carl Stokes was a great admirer of Dr. King, but asked the minister not to come to Cleveland while Stokes campaigned to be the majority white city's first black mayor. Stokes understood he could not win the votes he needed using racial justice as his platform. He felt the importance of his eventual office -- and the power it would give him to achieve more just policies -- outweighed a few moments on stage with his hero.

For more on music and the movement, read comments by Bernice Johnson Reagon.

Music courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, folkways.


PBS Eyes on the Prize American Experience