Throughout history, protest songs have inspired and celebrated social change. ONE’s agit8 project harnesses the power of protest songs to inspire a new generation to join the protest of our lifetime: extreme poverty.
In this piece, we walk through civil rights anthem ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ by Sam Cooke.
Photo used under Creative Commons: Flickr/National Archives
Listen to the ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ in the player below, and check out out Cooke’s lyrics are tied to the history of the American Civil Rights movement.
A CHANGE IS GONNA COME
Written by Sam Cooke. Published by ABKCO Music Limited.
Song lyrics are in bold, facts about the civil rights movement are in italics.
I was born by the river in a little tent the modern US civil rights struggle was born by the Potomac river in Washington DC
Oh and just like the river I’ve been running ever since 1954 Brown v. The Board of Education declared segregation in schools unconstitutional
It’s been a long, a long time coming Slavery had been outlawed since the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution in 1865
But I know a change gonna come ‘Jim Crow’ laws mandated separate public facilities for black and white people in many southern states for almost a century
Oh yes it will over the next 14 years, repeated efforts were made to overturn these laws
I go to the movie and I go downtown like Rosa Parks in 1955, who sat down on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama
Somebody keep telling me, “Don’t hang around” she did hang around – she refused to give up her seat for a white man
It’s been a long, a long time coming others had made the same protest before, but Rosa Parks’ action caught the attention of the nation
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will after the year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott, local buses were desegregated in 1956
Then I go to my brother four students staged a sit-in at a “whites only” lunch counter in North Carolina
And I say, “Brother, help me please” in the following days, sit-ins soon spread across the region
But he winds up knockin’ me, Back down on my knees although good for civil rights, there were violent reactions to the sit-ins
Oh there been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long but not on that day in 1963 when 250,000 people attended the March on Washington
But now I think I’m able to carry on after hearing Martin Luther King deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech there
It’s been a long, a long time coming the 1964 Civil Rights Act banned discrimination based on race or religion
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will challenges remain, but in 2008, the U.S. elected a black president…
Listen to more iconic protest songs re-imagined by artists like Bruce Springsteen, Ed Sheeran and Green Day on the agit8 platform.
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