#3 Civil Rights – Songs of Protest

Songs like “We Shall Overcome” and “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round” gave civil rights activists the will, passion and solidarity to stand up against racial inequality. Songs of protest have always been central to social movements in the United States. Music has been a way to cry out against poverty and inequality and give voice to the longing for freedom, peace, justice, and equality.

A 2009 documentary Soundtrack for a Revolution features performances by well-known contemporary recording artists, and it also explores the role of music in the civil rights movement in the United States. Recently shown on PBS, the documentary is also available on Netflix.

In this featured clip from Rolling Stone,  The Roots, together with  TV on the Radio perform “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” an old song with updated lyrics. The performance is set against the background of black and white footage from the civil rights unrest in the Southern States of Alabama and Georgia in the 1960s.

CLICK on the image to play the clip

Slideshow still photos

1           Previewing questions

      • What do you understand by ‘a civil right?’
      • What and when was Civil Rights Movement in the US — what was it about?
      • What rights were being repeatedly denied to African-Americans?
      • Who was Martin Luther King?

2          Vocabulary – note down new vocabulary

3          Respond to the following questions

      • Listen to the song from the clip, examine the excerpt below, and see if you can write down additional lyrics that you hear.
      • Comment on the song’s message.

Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ‘round,
Turn me round, turn me ‘round.
Ain’t gonna let nobody, turn me ‘round.
I’m gonna keep on a-walkin’;, keep on a-talkin’,
Walkin’ into freedom land.

Ain’t gonna let segregation turn me ’round,
Turn me ’round, turn me ’round.
Ain’t gonna let segregation turn me ’round,
I’m gonna keep on a-walkin’, keep on a-talkin’.
Walkin’ into freedom land.

      • How effective a role does music play in getting the message out?

4          Citizen journalist activity

      • Find a song or a piece of music in your culture that has influenced or united people to fight for just laws, for justice and civil liberties. Feel free to conduct interviews, create a survey, or produce a narrative.

or, share your story about a song that has made you aware of a problem or issue in our society?

      • Post the URL to the song on ESL Speak.  Include your comment on what about this music or a particular performance has influenced you.

To see the lyrics to other songs featured in the documentary, please visit PBS American Experience



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