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.
Divide students into pairs for a Think-Pair-Share activity. Ask the following question: Why do people sing? Ask students to write down one or two ideas that come to mind, then share/compare answers with partner. You may wish to offer the following examples to help encourage a wide range of student responses:
A child joins a church choir
Your brother sings in the shower
Slaves sang work songs and “field hollers” while they harvested cotton
A mother sings a child to sleep
Ask for volunteer pairs to share their ideas with the class. Post sample answers on the board.
Next, discuss the following:
Do people sing for one reason?
Can someone be singing for more than one reason at the same time? What might be an example of this?
Why do you think it has been so important for people to sing no matter the time they lived in or the circumstances they faced?
Ask each pair to discuss briefly what they think the song is about. After they’ve done this, ask each student to write one sentence summarizing in his or her own words what the song is about.
Poll sample student responses.
Lead a classwide discussion built around the following questions:
Is “People Get Ready” a religious song? What might be some clues suggesting religious themes?
Is “People Get Ready” about something other than religion? What might that be?
What does the song mean when it says you “don’t need no baggage” and “don’t need no ticket”? To go where?
Whom do you think this song would most appeal to?
Why do you think this became such an important song in the Civil Rights movement, as Young discussed?
Ask students, remaining in pairs, to read the excerpt from the chapter essay about the song (on Handout 2), alternating by paragraph. Ask students to underline key words and phrases as they read and listen.
Discuss the following with the class:
What does the author believe made Mayfield’s music so important to the Civil Rights movement?
of Andrew Young discussing the role of singing and musical expression to the Civil Rights movement and his personal experience within the movement. (Explain to students that the “Bull” Connor Young refers to was the chief of the police and fire departments in Birmingham, Alabama, and was notorious for his use of attack dogs and fire hoses against peaceful marchers during the Civil Rights movement.)
Lead a classwide discussion built around the following questions:
What does Young mean by “moaning”? What do you imagine this “moaning” sounded like? Is that a form of singing? Why or why not?
What effect did the singing have on the marchers?
Why did the dogs stop barking? Why did the fireman put down his fire hose?
What effect did the singing have on the Civil Rights movement overall, according to Young?
What do you feel are the main points Dr. King makes? What is his explanation for violence at Civil Rights demonstrations? How would you describe his manner in this casual, talk-show context?
Have students research the events surrounding Martin Luther King Jr.’s arrest in Birmingham, Alabama, on April 12, 1963, and analyze the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” he authored during his incarceration, one of the most important documents of the Civil Rights era.
The Merv Griffin Show. Write an account of what happened to Parks based on her retelling, using your own words.
The song “People Get Ready” has been performed and recorded by dozens of famous artists, from Bruce Springsteen to Joss Stone. Using YouTube and other online resources, ask students to find a recording of the song by another artist, and analyze the performance. Why does this song continue to have such resonance?
Have students research the role Andrew Young played in the Civil Rights movement.
Have students research the life and accomplishments of Curtis Mayfield.
New Jersey State Learning Standards for English Language Arts: Reading
NJSLSA.R1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences and relevant connections from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text
New Jersey State Learning Standards for English Language Arts: Writing
NJSLSA.W2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
New Jersey State Learning Standards for English Language Arts: Speaking and Listening
NJSLSA.SL2: Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
New Jersey State Learning Standards for English Language Arts: Language
NJSLSA.L3: Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
Texas State Standards
Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for ELA & Reading
Make inference about text and use textual evidence to support understanding.
Summarize, paraphrase, and synthesize texts in ways that maintain meaning and logical order within a text and across texts.
Make intertextual links among and across texts, including other media (e.g. film, play, music) and provide textual evidence.
Make complex inference about text and use textual evidence to support understanding.
Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Social Studies
Culture: The student understands the relationship that exists between the arts and the societies in which they are produced. The student expects to:
Explain the relationships that exist between societies and their architecture, art, music, and literature.
Relate ways in which contemporary expressions of culture have been influenced by the past.
Describe ways in which contemporary issues influence creative expression.
Economics: The student understands why various sections of the United State develop different patterns of economic activity. The student is expected to:
Explain the reasons for the increase in factories and urbanization.
Analyze the causes and effects of economic differences among different regions of the United States at selected times in U.S. History.
Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Fine and Performing Arts
Historical and cultural relevance: The student relates music to history, culture, and the world. The student is expected to: Identify relationships of concepts to other academic disciplines such as the relations between music and mathematics, literature, history, and the sciences.
Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Music
(5) Historical and cultural relevance. The student relates music to history, culture, and the world. The student is expected to:
(A) compare and contrast music by genre, style, culture, and historical period;
(B) define uses of music in societies and cultures;
(C) identify and explore the relationships between music and other academic disciplines;
(E) identify and explore the impact of technologies, ethical issues, and economic factors on music, musicians, and performances.
Common Core State Standards
College and Career Readiness Reading Anchor Standards for Grades 6-12 for Literature and Informational Text
Reading 1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
College and Career Readiness Writing Anchor Standards for Grades 6-12 in English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects
Writing 2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening for Grades 6-12
Speaking and Listening 2: Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language for Grades 6-12
Language 3: Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
Social Studies – National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
Theme 1: Culture
Theme 6: Power, Authority, and Governance
Theme 10: Civic Ideals and Practices
National Standards for Music Education
Core Music Standard: Responding
Select: Choose music appropriate for a specific purpose or context.
Analyze: Analyze how the structure and context of varied musical works inform the response.
Interpret: Support interpretations of musical works that reflect creators’ and/or performers’ expressive intent.
Evaluate: Support evaluations of musical works and performances based on analysis, interpretation, and established criteria.
Core Music Standard: Connecting
Connecting 11: Relate musical ideas and works to varied contexts and daily life to deepen understanding.