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.”
The development of the “Black Pride” movement in the late 1960s
The musical contributions of James Brown
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)
2. Ask students to identify specific differences in the appearances of the people in the two pictures (clothing, hair style, demeanor, etc.). Explain to students that these are both musical groups. Ask them to discuss what type of audience they think each group is trying to appeal to.
3. Discuss briefly with students what they can conclude about how the people in each group view themselves.
What is Belafonte’s attitude toward the African-American community? How is his message similar to that of James Brown?
Do Brown and Belafonte see themselves purely as entertainers? Do they see themselves as people whose job it is to simply make music to entertain African Americans and whites alike? How does being African American influence the way they see themselves and their roles in society?
How might the attitudes of Brown and Belafonte have been influenced by challenges to the Civil Rights movement and historical events between the early 1960s, when Motown and artists such as Smokey Robinson began recording, and the later 1960s, when dissatisfaction in the African-American community escalated into riots in places such as Los Angeles, California, and Newark, New Jersey, and the more militant political messages of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers became more popular?
Distribute Handout 3: Poetry Excerpts from Amiri Baraka and Nikki Giovanni. Ask for a student volunteer to read each excerpt aloud.
Ask students to identify thematic similarities between the poems and “Say It Loud.”
Ask students what they notice about the language and style of the two poems, as well as the language and style of the lyrics to “Say It Loud.” What do they conclude these stylistic choices say about African-American self-expression?
What were the major themes of “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud”? Pick one (or more) of the poems and compare the approaches James Brown and the authors take in addressing those themes. Relate the texts to the history of the Black Pride movement of the 1960s.
Have students further investigate James Brown’s involvement with economic development in the African-American community in the late 1960s and early 1970s. View the video James Brown “Role as an Artist” and discuss why it was important to Brown to become directly involved with these efforts, and evaluate the effectiveness of these projects.
Ask students to further research the work of poet, playwright, and activist Amiri Baraka. They may begin with a 1965 television interview with Baraka, in which he discusses his ideas about the condition of the African-American community in the United States.
New Jersey State Learning Standards for English Language Arts: Reading
NJSLSA.R5: Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
NJSLSA.R6: Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
NJSLSA.R9: Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
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.
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.
Analyze the causes and effects of economic differences among different regions of the United States at selected times in U.S. History.
Citizenship: The student understands efforts to expand the democratic process. The student is expected to:
Identify and analyze methods of expanding the right to participate in the democratic process, including lobbying, non-violent protesting, litigation, and amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
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 5: Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
Reading 6: Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
Reading 9: Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
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.
Social Studies – National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
Theme 1: Culture
Theme 2: Time, Continuity, and Change
Theme 4: Individual Development and Identity
Theme 5: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
National Standards for Music Education
Core Music Standard: Responding
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.
National Core Arts Standards
Anchor Standard 7: Perceive and analyze artistic work.
Anchor Standard 8: Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.
Anchor Standard 9: Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work.
Anchor Standard 10: Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art.
Anchor Standards 11: Relate artistic ideas and work with societal, cultural and historical context to deepen understanding.