Thursday, February 28, 2013

Abolition's Greatest Hits or Singing for the Cause

What is a revolution without music? Have we forgotten that "This Land is Your Land" sprang from a social justice consciousness?
  Like others dedicated to social change, abolitionists used songs to explain and promote their stance. "Let Freedom Sing: Music of the Abolitionists" explores that music and its singers. Click the link to listen to the hour-long program.

 One surprise: Stephen Collins Foster - yes, that Stephen Foster - was sympathetic to the abolitionists' cause.
"Rather than writing nostalgically for an old South (it was, after all, the present day for him), or trivializing the hardships of slavery, Foster sought to humanize the characters in his songs, to have them care for one another, and to convey a sense that all people--regardless of their ethnic identities or social and economic class--share the same longings and needs for family and home. ...Stephen Foster was a man with a mission, to reform black-face minstrelsy, then the most pervasive and powerful force in American popular culture." - source: American Experience Stephen Foster
But the photo above features the Hutchinson Family Singers. The group, which spanned three generations, is considered the first protest singers. During their heyday in the mid- nineteenth century, they sang about temperance, politics, female suffrage and, of course, abolition. Listen to a rendition of "Get Off the Track," a song touting emancipation.