Anthems of the Civil Rights Movement

By 
Bryan Parys
January 25, 2019

Listen to artists—from Nina Simone to Bob Dylan—who gave the movement its musical foundation.

Album art from the Civil Rights anthems playlist

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and as Berklee gears up for our annual MLK Jr. Day of Service in February, this playlist takes stock of some of the many songs that captured the heart and soul of the Civil Rights Movement.

Speaking to the deep sense of community that underpinned the movement, then as now, many of these songs were passed around and recorded by some of the same artists. The roots of the song "We Shall Overcome," for instance, go back to the early 1900s; it was played by artists such as Mahalia Jackson, Pete Seeger, Toots and the Maytals, and more. Here, we've included Jackson's version and opted to include Seeger's original tune "Turn, Turn, Turn," (which itself would be even more famously covered by the Byrds). The list concludes with another version of "We Shall Overcome," this one remixed with audio from King himself, taken from one of his most famous sermons.

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