Making Curriculum Pop

I'm spending some extra time on African American culture and literature in Feb. for Black History Month.  I'm trying to tie in every genre and media including music.

I was wondering if anyone knew of some Hip Hop, R&B, Soul songs that give mention to or are reflective of the civil rights movement.  I'm already incorporating some popular music during the civil rights.



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Lindsay, here are some quick thoughts..

See these old blogs: CURRICULUM: Ben Harper Sounds & Visions + MLK & CIvil Rights
RESOURCES: American Studies + Popular Music

From the RRHOF&M:
Lesson 1: Keep on Pushing: Popular Music and the Civil Rights Movement - this has a great list of classic tracks from James Brown and Sly to Public Enemy.
Lesson 47: GET UP, STAND UP: Fighting for Rights Around the World

I also really dig this 8 minute track by Common - It's Your World, Parts 1 & 2

and I think this is pretty cool from the Freedom Writer's soundtrack
"A Dream (Feat. Will.I.Am) (Concept Version)" by Common
Also, this song is a classic about profiling - "Officer" by the Pharcyde - lyrics here

and of course there is the classic "What's Goin' On" and then the strange Iraq war/9.11 super jam
Hi Lindsay,

If you're interested in incorporating some "oldies", has a great complation by Harry Belafonte.


The Long Road to Freedom

Review from the site:
Decades after its conception, Harry Belafonte's enormously ambitious project has come to a rewarding fruition with the release of this lovingly produced and beautifully packaged collection. Between 1961 and 1971, Belafonte sought to create a comprehensive document of what he calls "African-matrixed music": "African rooted, Africa as origin, evolved from an original African form." The rough timeframe Belafonte follows begins with the arrival of blacks in America in the early 17th century and ends at the dawn of the recording age. Yet this five-disc set (with a bonus "making of" DVD) amounts to so much more than a musical history; it is, instead, a detailed sociopolitical history of the people who created this music and a journey following the evolution of black culture from the time that the diaspora left Africa for the New World.

Disc 1 offers tribal chants, shouts, and spirituals while the second disc explores the slavery era through the Civil War. Disc 3 looks at postwar sounds both urban and rural while the fourth disc crosses into the next century as the street cries and mountain hollers morph into folk ballads, gritty blues, and minstrel shows--the roots of popular music as we know it today. The final disc includes songs of work and songs of worship, the practical tools of survival for African Americans in troubled times. The sounds found across these discs are faithful re-creations featuring a large cast that includes the likes of Belafonte, Bessie Jones, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, and Joe Williams. The lovely 140-page hardbound book includes extensive notes and provocative essays, as well as stunning photos plus artwork by Charles White. To be sure, this is not easy listening and those looking for your basic "roots music" collection will be disappointed. Rather, this is really a fascinating exploration of the roots of roots music. --Marc Greilsamer
I really like Nina Simone's "I wish I knew how it would feel to be free." Could pair with sections of MLK's "I have a dream" speech.
My first thought was the song "The Revolution will not be Televised." I believe there is a version on the soundtrack for Undercover Brother. I think this song has something to say to our students now - those who love all these reality tv shows especially.
I second the Gil Scott Herron classic. I recently played it for a grade 9 honors class who had no idea what I was talking about when I referenced it. Fortunately, I have it on my iPod. So it took about 3 seconds to cue up and play.
I've used Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit." The students read the poem first and do a little analytical work with it - then I show them the video of her singing it. It's on youtube. The visual/auditory is SO VERY powerful - it takes the original poem to a much deeper level, and suffice to say, it left my students speechless. I used it with TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD when we get to the mob scene. The students don't always "get" what's going on there.
"Strange Fruit" was the first tune that popped in my head for this question. Billie Holiday is a must for anything Black History Month. Plus, that tune is hauntingly beautiful.
The Way It Is...>Bruce Hornsby and the Range...(not necessarily R&B) but useful anyway.
Lyrics here:
I use a spoke word poem by Amir Sulaiman called Dead Man Walking in my poetry unit. There some use of the "N" word but he talks about a lot of the feelings I think that reflect the passion of the civil rights movement. Plus it's great spoken word poetry.

"Fight the Power" swears too much, but maybe an edited version would work well. I think "seneca falls" might maybe mention civil rights, but i think it's more about the rise of feminism...
Hi, Lindsay.

Everyone has made some wonderful suggestions! Here are a few others. "A Change Is Gonna Come" is a great tune by Sam Cooke. You can also incorporate Nina Simone's "Mississippi Goddam," "Sunday in Savannah," "I Shall Be Released," and "Why (The King of Love Is Dead)." James Brown's "I'm Black, and I'm Proud," "Soul Power," "King Heroin," "Funky President (People It's Bad)," "Down and Out in New York City," and "Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Nothing" are great tunes. Marvin Gaye had many socially conscious songs like "Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)," "Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)," "What's Happening Brother," and "Save the Children." You could introduce your students to Donny Hathaway's "The Ghetto" and "Someday We'll All Be Free." Curtis Mayfield's "If There's a Hell Below (We're All Gonna Go)" and "People Get Ready" are also great tunes, but you have to be careful with the language. "A Song for Assata" by Common might also be a possibility. Common might have other tunes, but none are coming to mind at the time. PUBLIC ENEMY--Yes! "911 Is a Joke," "Fight the Power," "Don't Believe the Hype," "By the Time I Get to Arizona"--anything they recorded would work. Mos Def's "Rock 'n' Roll" is a tribute to those unsung African-American pioneers of the musical style. He might have other songs as a solo artist and with his partner, Talib Kweli, as the group Black Star. From the gospel style, you can use several songs: "I Need You To Survive," which was a response to the 911 attacks; The Clark Sisters' "World" and "Pray for the USA" ; Deitrick Haddon's "Jesus for President" and "Heaven Knows," which I think was written in response to Hurricane Katrina; "Are You Listening" by Kirk Franklin Presents Artists United for Haiti; those are just a few. The "Hope for Haiti Now" album might be a good source. What about "We Are the World" by Michael Jackson and others, or "Man In the Mirror"? He wrote plenty of socially conscious compositions.

I hope I've given you a good place to start. Just going off the top of my head. Let us know how things turn out this month!

Try: The Flobots, album is called "Fight With Tools" and track #10 "Anne Braden". It's about a white, southern woman who joined the Civil Rights movement and includes audio clips from an interview with her.



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