Freedom Songs with Starr
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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.
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.
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.
Visit starrbusby.onuniverse.com to hear more of Starr’s music.
- Starr Busby, “Ms. Bland” and “Wishing Tree”
- The Golden Gospel Singers, “O Freedom”
- Pete Seeger, “We Shall Overcome”
- Bernice Johnson Reagon and the Freedom Singers, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ’Round”
- Nina Simone, “I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel to Be Free)”
- Sweet Honey in the Rock, “Eyes on the Prize”
- Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are a Changin’” and “Chimes of Freedom”
- Staple Singers, “Freedom Highway”
- Odetta, “This Little Light of Mine”
- Joan Baez, “Oh Freedom” and “Birmingham Sunday”
- Bernice Johnson Reagan, Music in the Civil Rights Movement
- Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
- 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