Music of the Movement

“Music is A Motivator and Organizing Tool.”

– Chuck Neblett

Freedom singing was a vital part of SNCC’s community organizing work. Often stemming from traditional church songs, freedom songs brought people together, gave them courage, encouraged them to participate, and helped them imagine and believe in change. As SNCC field secretary Sam Block explained, “I began to see the music itself as an important organizing tool, not only to bring [people] together but also as an organizational glue to hold them together.”

Bettie Mae Fikes, who would become known as the voice of the Selma Movement, was a teenager in Selma, Alabama in 1963 when she started going to SNCC meetings in the basement of First Baptist Church. She had come from a very religious family of deacons, preachers, and good gospel singers. “When we started singing freedom songs, we started singing things like ‘Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around,’” Fikes explained. “That was part of the spiritual, gospel. We sang songs that were familiar with us.”

“My spirit speaks in songs and moans.”

– Betty Mae Fikes

Betty Mae Fikes reflecting on her love for music and movement stated, “Songs are the things that keep me.”

On October 15th at 5:15pm EDT, the SNCC Legacy Project in conjunction with SNCC 60th Anniversary Conference presented the SNCC Freedom and Justice Concert. The conference was dedicated to celebrating the contributions of SNCC and connecting further to a multi-generational community.