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Music: The Weapon of the Soul and How Women Used It as a Form of Resistance in the Civil Rights Movement

The words we speak bear weight and they statements we make can spark change whether for good or bad. Now, it's harder for someone who doesn't have a platform to voice out their feelings and thoughts, if they are not in a position of authority or power, how can they get their feelings across? For women during the Civil Rights Movement, it was music.

AnneMarie Mingo conducted a study in which she interviewed 40 women who lived through and participated in the Civil Rights Movement. She wanted to know how "freedom songs" shaped the dynamic of the movement and found that it was not only soothing but it was also empowering.

“I wanted to learn what gave women the strength to keep going out and protesting day after day and risking all the things that they risked,” Mingo said. “And one of the things was their understanding of God, and the way they articulated that understanding, or theology, wasn’t by going to seminary and writing some long treatise, but by singing and strategically adding or changing the lyrics to songs.”

It may be seen as small and simple acts of resistance but it made a big difference for those who felt they had no voice. Music was transcendental.

“They were allowing it to open up new spaces for them, especially as women and as young people. They could use music as a way of articulating their own pain, their own concerns, their own questions, their own political statements and critiques. Music democratized the Movement in ways that other things could not.”

(Image credit: Joe Alper/Library of Congress)


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