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Social Movements and the Sound of Solidarity in the African Diaspora

Shana L. Redmond

Publication Year: 2013

For people of African descent, music constitutes a unique domain of expression. From traditional West African drumming to South African kwaito, from spirituals to hip-hop, Black life and history has been dynamically displayed and contested through sound. Shana Redmond excavates the sonic histories of these communities through a genre emblematic of Black solidarity and citizenship: anthems. An interdisciplinary cultural history, Anthem reveals how this “sound franchise” contributed to the growth and mobilization of the modern, Black citizen. Providing new political frames and aesthetic articulations for protest organizations and activist-musicians, Redmond reveals the anthem as a crucial musical form following World War I.
Beginning with the premise that an analysis of the composition, performance, and uses of Black anthems allows for a more complex reading of racial and political formations within the twentieth century, Redmond expands our understanding of how and why diaspora was a formative conceptual and political framework of modern Black identity. By tracing key compositions and performances around the world—from James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” that mobilized the NAACP to Nina Simone’s “To Be Young, Gifted & Black” which became the Black National Anthem of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)—Anthem develops a robust recording of Black social movements in the twentieth century that will forever alter the way you hear race and nation.

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. 1-5


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pp. 6-7

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pp. vii-xii

...overwhelming honor to thank the many people who have oriented me on my life’s course. To imagine the many hours spent on my behalf by the individuals and communities acknowledged here is humbling. The names on the printed page do not do justice to most of the relationships that I signal, but I nonetheless take this opportunity to try to make your efforts legible. In a very real...

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Introduction: Anthem: Toward a Sound Franchise

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pp. 1-20

...Music is a method. Beyond its many pleasures, music allows us to do and imagine things that may otherwise be unimaginable or seem impossible. It is more than sound; it is a complex system of mean(ing)s and ends that mediate our relationships to one another, to space, to our...

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1. From Race to Nation: “Ethiopia” and Pan-African Pageantry in the UNIA

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pp. 21-62

...It was the thirteenth of August 1920, nearly two weeks into the monthlong International Convention of the Negro Peoples of the World held in Harlem, New York. The stage was emblazoned with the colors of red, black, and green, and the two-thousand-member audience sat in eager anticipation of their entrance. On that day the Universal Negro...

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2. Extending Diaspora: The NAACP and Up-“Lift” Cultures in the Interwar Black Pacific

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pp. 63-98

...In 1919 Reverend Henry Curtis McDowell, his wife Bessie Fonvielle McDowell, and their daughter arrived in Portuguese-colonized Angola. They were sent by the American Board of Congregational Missions, and their goal was to establish a ministry station run exclusively by African Americans. By 1922 their task was accomplished with the development...

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3. Songs of Free Men: The Sound Migrations of “Ol’ Man River”

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pp. 99-140

...“We know about this struggle,” wrote Paul Robeson. His comments, written during World War II, brought into stark relief the conditions that threatened the practice of freedom on a global scale, and he articulated them through a communal language (“we”) balanced by his own experiences and knowledges: “We know what oppression means...

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4. Women’s Work: “We Shall Overcome” and the Culture of the Picket Line

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pp. 141-178

...Riding high on their international acclaim, Paul Robeson and Lawrence Brown performed a special concert for the Highlander Folk School in Washington, D.C., on May 10, 1942. Advertised as Robeson “in a program of Negro Folk Song,” the event also included performances by Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter, a well-known blues musician...

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5. Soul Intact: CORE, Conversions, and Covers of “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”

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pp. 179-220

...In a 1963 picture captured by members of the Highlander Folk School, Nina Simone grips the hands of the man and woman to her left and right while those around her sing (Figure 5.1). This tight space is one of performance, and although she was a solo artist, it was not hers alone. Simone is here sandwiched between two formidable Black activists...

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6. Sounds of Exile: “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” and ANC Ambassadors

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pp. 221-260

...Carnegie Hall was like a second home for Nina Simone. She performed there on more than ten occasions, each time as a more accomplished and higher profile artist. Yet it was her May 1961 show that marked an early “milestone” in her career and made an indelible mark on her personal life. The event was a benefit for a Harlem church, and...

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Conclusion: The Last Anthem: Resonance, Legacy, and Loss at the Close of the Century

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pp. 261-288

...lead-up to and effects of urban conflict in segregated Brooklyn. Infused within this visual catalogue was a soundtrack that punctuated the scenes of the film and carried its political power onto the radio and into the ears of millions across the country. Far and away, the most enduring single was track 1: Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.” Beginning with an original speech by Chicago political activist Thomas Todd...


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pp. 289-330


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pp. 331-344

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About the Author

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pp. 345-345

...Shana L. Redmond is Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. She is a former musician and labor organizer, and a Midwest native...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814770955
E-ISBN-10: 0814770959
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814770412
Print-ISBN-10: 081477041X

Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 861200076
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Anthem

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Subject Headings

  • Music -- United States -- Political aspects.
  • Civil rights movements -- History -- 20th century.
  • Anthems -- Political aspects.
  • African Americans -- Music -- Political aspects.
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