The Music Of Freedom Summer


The 4-8th graders have been discussing Freedom Summer this semester, reading about it, watching videos of speeches and in many other ways. In music class, we took the time to talk about the music of freedom summer, particularly with the Children’s March. The children of the march sang together as they were arrested to show solidarity, spread their message and to feel joyful. Since there were so many children being arrested at different times, they needed a practical way of teaching the songs as the march went along. The way they managed this was ingenious: pick a song everyone knew and change the lyrics. There was no new melody or new rhythm to learn and they kept the words simple and easy to remember. For example, using the song “The Old Grey Mare” with the words, “I ain’t afraid of your jail, I want my freedom!” Here’s a link to a recording of Pete Seeger describing the event and singing the song:

The students were tasked to come up with a subject that felt important to them and that impacted their community. This idea needed to have gravitas to reflect the message of Freedom Summer but of course could be joyful as well. The next step was to pick a song everyone in the class knew. Finally, they were to rewrite the words of the song to fit the idea. Each music class worked together to write their song.

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