Rise Up and Sing

Hope + change through song

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Songs on Racial Justice


RISE UP SINGING: The "Freedom" chapter in Rise Up Singing is devoted to songs related to the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. Other racial justice songs in Rise Up Singing include: Bourgeois Blues, Dancing in the Streets, Heaven Help Us AllCarry It OnFree At Last, Up Over My HeadAsikataliOnce to Every Man & Nation (abolitionist hymn), Because All Men Are Brothers, Color Song, Same Boat Now, Lucretia Mott, We Shall Not Be Moved.

RISE AGAIN: The "Freedom" chapter in Rise Again, on the other hand, includes liberation songs from a variety of movements including anti-apartheid songs from South Africa, songs associated with Irish struggle for freedom from England, Nueva Cancion, and songs by Native Americans. 

Other songs in Rise Again on racial justice include: Colors of EarthStill Small VoiceIt's a Long WayPeople Get ReadyThere'll Be No Distinction There, We Are Soldiers, Is There Anybody Here

Here are some important racial justice songs we want to shine a special light on. (* = "zipper songs")

Songs from and about the U.S. Civil Rights Movement (1950s-60s):

Other African American songs:

Songs related to the South African Anti-Apartheid Movement:

Songs by allies of African Americans:

Note: We are working on a list of songs that should never have been put in our songbooks because their content either contributes to or is complicit with the systemic culture of white supremacy. We did three "Music for Justice" programs in July and August 2020 focusing on racial justice issues:

Resources for working on Racial Justice:

Here are a few of the songs with significant racist content, issues, and/or history:
  • Before They Close the Minstrel Show (RUS Creativity)
  • Kentucky Babe (RUS Lullabies)
  • Mr Bojangles (RUS Creativity)
  • The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (RUS America)
  • O Susannah (RUS Play)
  • Old Folks at Home (RUS Home) 

Many songs use the word "Black" or dark in a pejorative sense - as meaning evil, dangerous, threatening, or depressed.

Please send us your thoughts on other songs that have challenging racial issues. 

Best Concrete