Members of the Freedom Singers discuss the role of music during the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and perform “Fighting for My Rights” (based on the song “Lonely Avenue”) and the traditional gospel song “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.”
During the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s a group of young men and women traveled through the country as the Freedom Singers. The group formed in Georgia. They used music to work for desegregation and civil rights.
Living members of the Freedom Singers continue to sing. Rutha Mae Harris, Charles Neblett, and Bernice Johnson Reagon and her daughter Toshi Reagon performed at the White House in 2010 for President Barack Obama as part of the “Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement."
“Lonely Avenue,” the song rewritten as “Fighting for My Rights,” was a rhythm and blues hit for Ray Charles in the 1950s.
1. Use this resource as part of study of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
2. Play the segment Singing the Gospel and compare the performances of the gospel songs.
3. Listen to the song “Lonely Avenue” (Ray Charles’ version is available on YouTube), and explore how the song was adapted by the Freedom Singers. Why do you think the group might have chosen this song to adapt?