Music and the Movement: Giving Voice

Essential Question

How did Sixties Soul help give voice to the Civil Rights movement?


In this lesson, students will explore the emergence of Sixties Soul music within the context of the Civil Rights movement of the early 1960s. Using Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions’ iconic “People Get Ready” as a starting point, students will examine the connection between musical and political voices, and the ways in which popular song helped express the values of the movement and served as a galvanizing force for those involved.

While the lesson is presented in traditional fashion, with specific directions for use in the classroom, instructors are encouraged to put their own stamp on the material and use the resources provided in ways best suited to the contexts within which they are teaching. For example, instructors may set up viewing stations around the room to allow students to interact individually with the video and audio resources, rather than presenting them in a whole-class format. Or instructors may find that they wish to focus on only one portion of the lesson. The lesson as presented is merely one suggestion for how to use this rich material; instructors should strive to find new approaches that will resonate with their students.

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Upon completion of this lesson, students will:

  1. Know (knowledge):
    • The contributions of such pioneering figures as Curtis Mayfield, Andrew Young, the Freedom Riders, and Martin Luther King Jr. to the Civil Rights movement and the emergence of Sixties Soul music
    • The central importance of music to the progress of the Civil Rights movement
    • The historical connection between religious and political themes both in the Civil Rights movement and in Sixties Soul
  2. Be able to (skills):
    • Develop interpretive skills by analyzing song lyrics
    • Identify connections between artistic expression and the broader social and political context in which that expression occurs
    • Common Core: Students will read short texts to gather information in order to write a summary (CCSS Reading 1; CCSS Writing 2)
    • Common Core: Students will read and listen to analyze lyrics to comprehend the meaning more fully (CCSS Speaking and Listening 2; CCSS Language 3)