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Bernice Johnson Reagon (b. 1942)

@ New Georgia Encyclopedia

Hatfield, Edward A


Encyclopedia article about Bernice Johnson Reagon who distinguished herself during the civil rights movement as a committed student activist and gifted musician whose powerful voice led freedom songs in her native Albany and beyond. Since then, she has made significant contributions to the field of African American cultural history as a historian at the Smithsonian Institution and at American University, both of which are located in Washington, D.C. Reagon was born on October 4, 1942, in Albany, Georgia, where she received religious training and was introduced at an early age to the power of song in the black choral tradition. In 1959 she entered Albany State College (later Albany State University), where she studied music and became politically active in the student chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and later became a student leader in the Albany Movement. She also participated in Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) demonstrations in 1961 for which she was arrested and expelled from Albany State. After a brief stint at Spelman College in Atlanta, she joined the Freedom Singers, an Albany-based choral group that toured the country to raise money for SNCC's civil rights campaigns. When her marriage to Cordell Reagon, a fellow Freedom Singer, ended in divorce in 1967, Reagon returned to Atlanta to continue her education, and founded the Harambee Singers, an all-female choral group that experimented with black-nationalist themes. After completing her degree at Spelman in 1970, she moved to Washington D.C., where she entered a...
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Digital Library of Georgia