Protest Music Overview

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STRANGE FRUIT: Filmmaker’s Site
Visit filmmaker Joel Katz’s Web site and read reviews, get information on screenings and awards and view a trailer from STRANGE FRUIT.

Protest Music
Web sites about the people, the times and America's freedom songs (see articles and books for additional resources)

"Lift Every Voice" Protest Songs section
Part of a larger online exhibit of music in American life, the protest songs section covers music from the 19th century through the 1960s, and includes audio clips, archival images and other source materials.

A Force More Powerful: We Were Warriors, 1960
This section of the companion website to the PBS series contains a section on freedom songs, audio clips and analysis of nonviolent protest and the civil rights movement.

Frontline: LAPD Blues - Race, Rap & the L.A.P.D.
This section of the site discusses how some rap provided a political perspective of a racist and oppressive L.A.P.D., and includes related lyrics.

American Roots Music
Companion site to the PBS series explores the roots of 20th century American music and features a bio page profiling influential songwriters including Lead Belly, The Weavers, Pete Seeger, Bernice Johnson-Reagon and Woody Guthrie.

Billie Holiday Web Sites
Learn about the legendary singer who put "Strange Fruit" on the map

Billie Holiday page from Jazz series
This page features a brief biography and a handful of audio clips from Holiday's recordings.

The Official Site of Billie Holiday
Features a career summary, photo gallery, a selection of Holiday quips and quotes and a complete discography.

American Masters: Billie Holiday
A one-page biography of the singer and the musicians she worked with.

The Rosenbergs
"Strange Fruit" songwriter Abel Meeropol adopted the orphaned children of executed communists Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Find out more...

Secrets, Lies and Atomic Spies
This NOVA Online companion site features interviews with Robert and Michael Meeropol about their parents Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

Rosenberg Fund for Children, Inc.
Founded in 1990 by Robert Meeropol, The Rosenberg Fund for Children was established to provide for the educational and emotional needs of children whose parents have suffered because of their progressive activities.

Lynching and Civil Rights Web Sites
"Strange Fruit" brought the horror of lynching into the American consciousness and helped spark a movement. Learn more...

The Murder of Emmett Till
Exhaustive site on the brutal murder that mobilized the civil rights movement contains a timeline, lesson plans and special features on teen segregation and sex and race.

Lynching in America: A Carnival of Death
Court TV's Crime Library site features a five-chapter sourced essay on the history of lynching in America.

The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow
This companion site to the PBS series on the history of "Jim Crow" segregation includes interactive maps of segregation laws, stories, a timeline and lesson plans.

Without Sanctuary: Photographs and Postcards of Lynching in America
This site presents disturbing photographs and postcards of lynching in America from the collection of James Allen and John Littlefield.

"The Negro Holocaust: Lynching and Race Riots in the U.S., 1880-1950" by Robert A. Gibson. This curriculum contains research and info on lynching, race riots and black response, as well as an extensive bibliography.'s Lynching Links
Compilation of links on the history of lynching and anti-lynching crusaders.

African American World: Civil Rights Era
Exhaustive timeline chronicling how people of African descent have shaped American history from the 1400s to present. Many timeline items link to PBS sites and NPR audio.

For Educators

Using Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" to Send a Message
Lesson plan on "Strange Fruit" from the producers of the PBS series The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow.

And Then One Night | The Art of Social Protest
Students will examine how art and music help define and unify a social movement and how they can function as symbols of protest.

Webquest's Protest Songs in the United States
Outlines how students can select and analyze some of the most significant protest songs during the civil rights and anti-war movements.

The Civil War | Civil War Music
Both North and South used music extensively during the Civil War to rally troops, as recreation, to march by and for many other reasons. In this activity, students will examine lyrics of songs of both sides.

Jazz | Jazz is About Freedom: Billie Holiday's Anti-Lynching Song "Strange Fruit"
Research the history of lynching in America through analysis of primary texts, music and images.

Jazz | Transcending Poetry: Jazz, Rap, and Hip Hop
Explore poetry, jazz, rap and hip hop music and discover common themes and concerns.

Mountain Born: The Jean Ritchie Story
A chronicle of the life of one folk singer and songwriter, and a look at the issues regarding the role of the traditional musician in contemporary society.

Continental Harmony | Music, Slavery and the Civil War
Explore the role spirituals played during the period of slavery and the Civil War; listen to and analyze various forms of spirituals.


Denisoff, R. Serge. Sing a Song of Social Significance. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1983.

Ginzburg, Ralph. 100 Years of Lynchings. New York: Lancer Books, 1962.

Holiday, Billie. Lady Sings the Blues. New York: Penguin, 1995.

Margolick, David. Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Café Society, and a Cry for Civil Rights. Philadelphia: Running Press, 2000.

Margolick, David. Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song. New York: Ecco Press, 2001.

McDonnell, John. Songs of Struggle and Protest. Dublin: Mercier Press, 1979.

Meeropol, Robert and Michael. We Are Your Sons: The Legacy of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.

Meeropol, Robert. An Execution in the Family: One Son's Journey. New York: St. Martin's Press, June 2003.

Reuss, Richard A. and Joanne C. American Folk Music and Left-wing Politics, 1927-1957. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2000.

Seeger, Pete and Reiser, Bob. Everybody Says Freedom. New York: Norton, 1989.


Warrell, Laura K. "Fight the Power,"

Atapattu, Don. "A Guide to Protest Music,"

Chang, Jeff. "Is Protest Music Dead?" AlterNet, April 16, 2002.

Chang, Jeff. "Sing Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Where are the New Protest Songs?" LA Weekly, February 14, 2003.

Baker, Nancy. "Abel Meeropol (a.k.a. Lewis Allan): Political Commentator and Social Conscience." American Music, Volume 20, No. 1 (Spring 2002): 25-79.

Hentoff, Nat. "The Ghosts of Strange Fruit," Jazz Times.

Johnson, Marc. "O Politics, Where Art Thou?" Boston Globe, November 17, 2002.

Seymour, Chris. "Struggle and Song."

Stossel, Sage. "Flashbacks: The Battle Hymn of the Republic," The Atlantic Online, September 18, 2001.

"How One Teacher Wrote the 'Best Song' of the Century," New York Teacher.

"Lift Every Voice: Music in American Life."

"Robert Meeropol: Fighting the Frame-Up - From the Rosenbergs to Mumia," The Revolutionary Worker, September 19, 1999.

"Support Our Tunes!" AlterNet, March 26, 2003.

Protest Music Overview - Sources

Atapattu, Don. "Songs of Protest and Peace." Counterpunch, February 1, 2003.

Chang, Jeff. "Is Protest Music Dead?" AlterNet, April 16, 2002.

Corn, David. "Where Have All the Protest Songs Gone?", April 4, 2001.

Denisoff, R. Serge. Sing a Song of Social Significance. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1983. p.48-57.

Hitchcock, H.Wiley and Stanley Sadie. The New Grove Dictionary of American Music. New York: Grove's Dictionaries of Music, 1986.

"The Hutchinson Family Singers"

"Lift Every Voice: Music in American Life," University of Virginia Library.

McDonnell, John. Songs of Struggle and Protest. Dublin: Mercier Press, 1979.

People's Music Network for Songs of Freedom and Struggle

Seeger, Pete and Bob Reiser. Everyone Says Freedom. New York: Norton, 1989.

"John Brown's Body" - Julia Ward Howe

Joe Hill

History in Song

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