Making Movement Sounds: The Cultural Organizing Behind the Freedom Songs of the Civil Rights Movement
Davis, Elizabeth Cooper
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractMaking Movement Sounds recovers the people, places, and ideas that shaped the freedom songs of the civil rights movement and the strategies for their frontlines use. Rather than locate the movement’s song repertoire within long histories of black cultural resistance, I uncover the cross-racial collaborations, influential strategizing centers, and core cultural concepts most responsible for its emergence and deployment as a political tool. I give particular attention to the workings of power and privilege by examining the oft-ignored prominence of the mid-century folk revival, the fields of folklore and folksong scholarship, and the disproportionate influence afforded the movement’s white folk collaborators. Drawing on interviews with and reports and personal correspondence from leading cultural organizers as well as folksingers’ commercially-produced frontlines field recordings and accompanying liner notes, I highlight the black and white collaborators, cultural concepts, and community debates that led to an array of musical strategies from the foregrounding of traditional black hymns to the surprising leveraging of the unlikely weapon of copyright law. I argue that the songs are best understood, not by tracing their “continuities and ruptures” with black cultural tradition, but by tracing the collaborations and disputes of their key cultural actors and the socio-cultural context animating their encounters. Ultimately, Making Movement Sounds puts music history in conversation with anthropology, performance studies, and cultural studies to revise understandings of the people, politics, and practices shaping the mid-century sound of black resistance.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:39987965
- FAS Theses and Dissertations