Soundtrack for a Revolution Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 13 September 2016

Soundtrack for a Revolution

A look at American history shows a legacy of many prominent forms of civil disobedience, the one being reviewed in this paper being the Civil Rights Movement during the twentieth century. Individuals such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks were the figureheads that led to the attainment of the rights that African Americans were being stripped of. These astonishing and inspiring goals were met through their strenuous struggle, which included protests, rallies and other events surrounding the cause that finally led to African American citizens gaining their hard earned civil rights.

Soundtrack for Revolution takes a look at the American civil rights movement, focusing on the role that music, spirituals and protest songs sang had on the pickets, sit-ins, and demonstrations of that turbulent era. Soundtrack of Revolution examines such pivotal moments such as the Montgomery bus boycott, the March on Washington, and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Through old footage and interviews, spirituals like “Wade in the Water” and “We Shall Not Be Moved,” and folk songs like Phil Ochs’ “Here’s to the State of Mississippi” are each connected to specific aspects or moments of the movement.

These songs had effects on change and continuity, culture and community, and finally on power and governance “you can cage a singer but not song” Harry Belafonte. Change and continuity is a classic debate that looks at how the world is shaped. This particular movie looks at the changes made in American society, specifically civil rights. The American people, especially African-Americans, faced many changes in the twentieth century. Challenges including gaining their civil rights, the Civil Rights Movement was where millions of African-Americans fought to get the rights they deserved, while at the same time retaining their common traditions.

This movie examined pivotal moments such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a political and social protest campaign against the policy of racial segregation on the public transit system in Montgomery, Alabama. This campaign lasted from December 1, 1955, when Rosa Parks, an African American woman, was arrested for refusing to surrender her seat to a white person at the front of the bus, to December 20, 1956. This boycott led to a United States Supreme Court decision that declared the Alabama and Montgomery laws requiring segregated buses to be unconstitutional and unjust.

This was a major win in the Civil rights movement and ultimately led the march on Washington. This victory along with their music brought them together “we felt like it was going to be good trouble, it as necessary trouble. ” Congress man John Lewis, student movement leader said, it gave the African-American people a sense of hope and “ignited the flame” they needed. This quote is a clear representation of how they would do anything (non violent), even risking jail time, abuse and death to fight for their equality.

Culture and Community are very closely related in the sense that people from the same culture or people that share common values will come together in united communities within areas as well as in large scale countries. This theme is evident in the movie Soundtrack for Revolution. The African-Americans were treated inhumanely and therefore they shared a common prejudice. This brought them together and ultimately led to them pushing for civil rights in the United States.

There loyalty to the cause and their community is best seen during the various sit-ins they went through around Montgomery, Alabama. Sit-ins were a crucial part of the nonviolent strategy of civil disobedience and mass protests that eventually led to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which ended legally-sanctioned racial segregation in the United States as well as the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that struck down many racially-motivated barriers used to deny voting rights to non-whites.

The sit-ins were done at strategic areas, they were usually done at higher end cafes, diners, and restaurants where they would cause a greater statement. The African-American people that participated in these sit-ins were harassed constantly and were treated disgustingly, constantly being spit on or attacked. The protestors would sing together and had an immensely powerful spirit that could not be broken through violence “you can break my bones but you cannot break my spirit,”(Lynda Lowery, Selma protestor).

This quote directly links to how powerful their spirit was and it shows that they weren’t afraid to do what they had to, to win their freedom. The theme of Power and Governance is a major reoccurring theme in this documentary. Throughout the movie we see the struggle of power between the blacks and the whites, however their battles were for very different things. The whites fought to maintain their power. They were governed by themselves but also had the assistance of the Montgomery law enforcement as well as the State of Alabama, which was governed by George Wallace.

The blacks on the other hand, had only themselves. They relied on their music and their charismatic leader Martin Luther King Jr to get them through these hard times. Martin Luther King Jr was an American clergyman, activist, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King was best known for his role in the advancement of Civil Rights Movement using non-violent civil disobedience. He was a very brave man and ultimately payed the highest price for what he believed in. He was stabbed multiple times and was eventually assassinated.

Martin Luther King Jr didn’t fear death, he would do anything he could in his power to make the lives of millions better. “The only way we can really achieve freedom; is to somehow conquer the fear of death, for if a man has not discovered something that he would die for, he isn’t fit to live it,” (Martin Luther King). This sense of loyalty “to the cause” inspired millions of African-Americans to do the same and together united by song they beat segregation, and were finally recognized as equals.

In conclusion there have been many struggles in the world that have been overcome. The Civil Rights Movement was one of these amazing feats of man. In North America, for the most part, blacks, whites, Jews, and Arabs all live in harmony, we share schools, classrooms, playgrounds as well as morals. The movie Soundtrack for Revolution shows the story of the Civil Rights Movement and how songs, spirituals and protest songs held a group of courageous people together during their pickets, sit-ins, and non-violent demonstrations during a turbulent era.

This was accomplished with the aid of Martin Luther King JR and on August 28, 1963 “The Great March on Washington” took place, this was one of the largest political rallies for human rights in United States history and it called for civil and economic rights for African Americans. The themes of change and continuity, culture and community, and finally on power and governance are very evident in the movie as well as how song relates to them “you can cage a singer but not song” Harry Belafonte.

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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 13 September 2016

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