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Freedom Songs with Starr

Genre and Artist Overview

Freedom songs were anthems of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and a potent catalyst for change. These were songs that were made to be sung together in groups to unify the movement and deliver strong, clear messages of liberation. Musically, they are accessible, direct, and repetitive. They embody a range of emotions—joy, sadness, determination, defiance, hope. Many were originally spirituals, but the lyrics were altered to reflect a renewed purpose.

Starr Busby, who accepts all pronouns said with respect, grew up in Texas, but music has taken them all over the world. Starr truly believes that music and art are a deeply powerful practice; they consider all the music they make an offering or gift to whomever listens. Starr hopes that their songs will help people see themselves, their community, and their current circumstances in a new or different way that encourages people to look not just with their eyes or intellect but also with their hearts. Starr’s goal is to create an entry point to personal liberation which will ultimately lead to collective liberation.

Meet Starr!

Introduce your students to Starr with this “Meet Starr!” video. Visit the video index to watch all the videos for Starr and the other Spring Semester artists.

Lessons

People carrying protest signs during a civil rights march on Washington, D.C.
Lesson 1: Learning “Everybody Wants Freedom”
Students change the message of the song by altering one phrase; they also have an opportunity to write their own song delivering a message that is important to them.
Painting of a freedom march: "We Shall Overcome"
Lesson 2: Learning “Freedom Highway”
Students will learn to sing “Freedom Highway” and some of its musical elements.

Resources for Teachers

The following resources provide background information about the musical genre and culture. Some are intended to be shared with students; others are for teachers who may want to explore further on their own.

Listening

Visit starrbusby.onuniverse.com to hear more of Starr’s music.

Reading

  • Bernice Johnson Reagan, Music in the Civil Rights Movement
  • Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

Literacy Extension

  • A Sweet Smell of Roses, Angela Johnson
  • Let Freedom Sing, Vanessa Newton

New York City Resources

  • Weeksville, Brooklyn is a historic neighborhood founded by free Black Americans.
  • The Weeksville Heritage Center in Weeksville, Brooklyn
  • The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, Manhattan
Image Credits

“Civil rights march on Washington, D.C.” by Warren K Leffler.
“We Shall Overcome” photograph by Thomas Hawk is licensed by CC BY-NC 2.0.

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