Civil Rights Era Songs

The links here are for lyrics…. if you have a copy of the music available it can be a great tool to activate learning in your class.


This song, popularized by folk singer Pete Seeger, was the unofficial anthem for the Civil Rights movement. There was no question that this song inspired both the short and long term goals of the era and still inspires people today.

The Times They Are A Changin‘  Bob Dylan

This song by Bob Dylan captured the spirit and essence of the change and turmoil that surrounded the Civil Rights movement.

Strange Fruit  Billy Holiday

Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” captured the ugly essence of lynchings racism and the opposition to the Civil Rights movement.

Lift Every Voice and Sing  Women of the Calabash-many others

The “Negro National Anthem”, written by James Weldon Johnson in 1900, took on a new meaning during the Civil Rights movement when its prophecy became truth.

A Change Is Gonna Come  Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke’s song captured both the struggle, adversity and hope for change that Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement brought.



MLK Marcj

Martin Luther King knew that the Civil Rights movement needed a soundtrack and that every hero needed theme music. The Civil Rights movement incorporated jazz, folk, R&B and gospel to use music that everybody could relate to and be inspired by to help change America in the 1950s and 1960s.

Click here for MLK Memorial coverage

by Casey Gane-McCalla