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Anthem: Social Movements and the Sound of Solidarity in the African Diaspora

Shana L. Redmond
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 356
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    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,Anthemreveals 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 and Black which became the Black National Anthem of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) - Anthemdevelops a robust recording of Black social movements in the twentieth century that will forever alter the way you hear race and nation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-7095-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Introduction: Anthem: Toward a Sound Franchise
    (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 histories and historical moment. Themovementof music—not simply in response to its rhythms but toward collective action and new political modalities—is the central exposition ofAnthem. Within the African diaspora, music functions as a method of rebellion, revolution, and future visions that disrupt and challenge the manufactured differences...

  5. 1 From Race to Nation: “Ethiopia” and Pan-African Pageantry in the UNIA
    (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 Improvement Association (UNIA) announced its human rights platform for the protections of the Black race. Titled theDeclaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World, the manifesto was designed to broadcast the formation of and agenda for 400 million Negroes worldwide and...

  6. 2 Extending Diaspora: The NAACP and Up-“Lift” Cultures in the Interwar Black Pacific
    (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 of the Galangue Mission. During the meteoric rise of Garveyism, this couple had managed one of the major philosophical tenets of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA)—they “returned” to Africa and developed a small community where Africans and African Americans lived together. Despite an opportunity to be the...

  7. 3 Songs of Free Men: The Sound Migrations of “Ol’ Man River”
    (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. We have all experienced it. I was in Spain. I saw the people’s struggle against Fascism. I was in Germany. I know that Hitler would make me a slave forever.”¹ This danger, palpable at the time of his writing, stirred him to action. In addition to writing, he...

  8. 4 Women’s Work: “We Shall Overcome” and the Culture of the Picket Line
    (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 and figure of the Popular Front folk music circuit. Robeson’s set included international folk songs such as the Irish “Oh, No John!” and Jewish “Chassidic Chant,” but the grand majority of his songs exposed his deep investment in the songs of his people, the spirituals. His standards, “Go Down Moses,”...

  9. 5 Soul Intact: CORE, Conversions, and Covers of “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”
    (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 whose careers would affect the advance and cultures of (inter)national politics: Marion Barry, Jr., who would later be mayor of Washington, D.C., and writer-activist-intellectual Lorraine Hansberry. While her comrades sing, Simone appears to be silent. Her gaze is...

  10. 6 Sounds of Exile: “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” and ANC Ambassadors
    (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 despite her misgivings about religion she obliged their request. It was there that she made her first acquaintance with a woman who would become a close friend, confidant, and mentor: Miriam Makeba.¹ Hardly a household name at the...

  11. Conclusion: The Last Anthem: Resonance, Legacy, and Loss at the Close of the Century
    (pp. 261-288)

    In 1989 Spike Lee releasedDo the Right Thing, a film that captures the 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, the song launches into nearly five minutes of insistent demands (to “fight the power”), while taking advantage of...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 289-330)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 331-344)
    (pp. 345-345)