Essential Question

How did Social Soul reflect a new vision of African-American identity in the late 1960s and early 1970s?


Accompanying the musical and political changes in Soul music that took place as the 1960s moved forward into the 1970s was a profound shift in African-American identity. Whereas Motown artists had been groomed for mass consumption by white audiences in the mid-1960s, Soul artists increasingly embraced a style much more in sync with their African roots (and in many cases reflecting a more militant political view). These developments paralleled musical changes in which melody was to varying degrees made secondary to an emphasis on rhythm and groove, as it often was in traditional African musical forms. Together, these shifts were emblematic of the growing Black Pride movement, with its characteristic slogan, “black is beautiful.” This lesson looks at these social and musical changes, with a focus on James Brown and his seminal proclamation of black pride, “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud.”

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Upon completion of this lesson, students will:

  1. Know (knowledge):
    • The development of the “Black Pride” movement in the late 1960s
    • The musical contributions of James Brown
  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
    • Evaluate connections between style/fashion and the larger societal context in which it occurs
    • Common Core: Students will analyze and compare the structure of poems and lyrics  and how the purpose shapes the content and style of the text (CCSS Reading 5; CCSS Reading 6; CCSS Speaking and Listening 2)
    • Common Core: Students will relate the themes of the lyrics and poems to each other and to the “black pride” movement (CCSS Reading 9; CCSS Writing 2)