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Freedom Singers

@ New Georgia Encyclopedia

Hatfield, Edward A


Encyclopedia article about the Freedom Singers from Albany, Georgia, who performed during the early 1960s throughout the country to raise funds for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and to inform audiences about the grassroots organizing campaigns expanding in communities across the South.Southern civil rights protest was commonly accompanied by the music of the black choral tradition, perhaps because it originated in the black church where congregational singing had traditionally formed an essential part of worship. Most freedom songs were common hymns or spirituals familiar to the southern black community; the lyrics were often modified to reflect the political aims of the civil rights movement. The Freedom Singers formed in December 1962 under the leadership of SNCC field secretary Cordell Reagon, a veteran of the sit-in movement in Nashville, Tennessee, where music played a similarly important role. With the help of Albany natives Rutha Mae Harris and Bernice Johnson, whom he later married, and Charles Neblett, a veteran of civil rights demonstrations in Cairo, Illinois who was recruited by Reagon for the group, the four performers left Albany to tour the country in support of civil rights and the goals of SNCC. Over the next nine months, the group traveled 50,000 miles through forty states in a Buick station wagon, playing at colleges, elementary and high schools, concert halls, living rooms, jails, political rallies, and the March on Washington in August 1963. Although the original Freedom Singers disbanded after recording an album in 1963, later incarnations continued to perform under...
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New Georgia Encyclopedia

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Digital Library of Georgia