Lift Every Voice and Sing

Students in the school choir, Voices of Action, investigate the impact of African American music on the history and culture of the United States. They will be creating a podcast that highlights all they have learned about African American Music. There are three acts to this investigation.

Act 1:  From Field Songs to Protest Chants
Act 2: Art to Heal and Empower
Act 3: Our Music, Our Stories

Beginning Research Using Encyclopedias (You will need to sign in to the encyclopedias with your lab school passwords. You can find the passwords on the Books and Reading Bulletin Board in the Portal.)

Overview of African American Music

Stephens, Robert W. “African American Music.” Scholastic GO! 

Pen, Ron. “Blues.” Scholastic GO!

Darden, Robert F. “Rhythm and blues.” World Book Student

Gospel and Spirituals
Crookshank, Esther Rothenbusch. “Gospel Music.” Scholastic GO!

Darden, Robert F. “Gospel music.” World Book Student

Hip Hop
“Hip-hop.” Britannica School

“Rap.” Britannica School

“Jazz.” Britannica School

Tirro, Frank. “Jazz.” World Book Student

“Motown.” Scholastic GO!

Brennan, Shawn. “Motown Records.” World Book Student

Schuller, Gunther. “Ragtime.” Scholastic GO!

Tunks, Thomas W. “Ragtime.” World Book Student


“Soul Music.” Scholastic GO!

Darden, Robert F. “Soul music.” World Book Student

History of Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” 

“What Makes ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ So Iconic” by Faith Karimi and Aj Willingham

“Lift Ev”ry Voice and Sing: James Weldon Johnson and National Poetry Month” – In Custodia Legis LOC Law Librarians Blog Post by Jennifer Davis

“Lift Ev”ry Voice and Sing” – Essay by Burton W. Peretti

Web Sites with Biographical Information

Fact Monster: Notable African-Americans
This web site contains brief biographies on not only musicians, but other African-Americans from other fields. For the biographies about musicians click here. You can browse the biographies by categories. While this web site is a good source of information, it contains ads.

Biography.Com – Collection of Notable African American Musicians

Black Jazz, Blues, Afro-Latino Music and a Whole Lot More from the Internet

Afro-Latino Music – An NPR show celebrating Afro-Latino Music with Smithsonian Folkways

Marian Anderson – “God Bless America” at the Lincoln Memorial. After the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow Marian Anderson sing at Constitutional Hall, Eleanor Roosevelt persuades the Secretary of Interior Hicks to allow her to sing at the Lincoln Memorial, with over 75,000 in attendance (1939)

Louis Armstrong – “Black and Blue”, “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”, and “What a Wonderful World”. “Black and Blue” is about being black in a white world and Louis first recorded it in 1929. Louis Armstrong was born and raised in New Orleans and was the grandson of slaves. Louis grew up in poverty in Uptown New Orleans and among other jobs would haul coal to Storyville where he got to see the likes of Joe “King” Oliver perform as a child. As Louis put it, “Every time I close my eyes blowing that trumpet of mine — I look right in the heart of good old New Orleans…It has given me something to live for.” Armstrong was criticized by black people for being too cordial in the face of extreme prejudice including being constantly degraded by white people on tour, not being allowed to use the restroom or drinking fountains at clubs he was performing at and plenty more. Louis always responded from the heart, with a smile and eyes that showed compassion for those filled with hate and ignorance. And sometimes, Louis did speak out. In 1957 the Governor of Arkansas disobeyed an order of the Supreme Court to allow black children to attend a white school in Little Rock. Our president at time, Eisenhower, refused to intervene. Louis responded to the press “The way they are treating people in the South, the government can go to hell!” and “The President has no guts” which made national news. Armstrong was also one of the major financial supporters of Martin Luther King Jr and the FBI even had a file on him.

Harry Belafonte – “Day O” (Banana Boat Song)

Blind Boys of Alabama – “Amazing Grace”  and “Wade in the water”

Nat King Cole Show on NBC. In the 1950s Nat King Cole was in the mainstream of American show business and had already produced several records that had sold millions of copies each. Cole was a regular guest star on many variety shows on national television including those of Perry Como, Milton Berle, Ed Sullivan and Jackie Gleason. Nat was a natural on television he was offered his own show by NBC which premiered in 1956. Cole was nervous about being the first major black performer to host his own show on network television and at the time said “It could be a turning point, so that Negroes may be featured regularly on television.

Sam Cooke – “This Little Light of Mine”

Miles Davis  – “Moon Dreams”

Duke Ellington was an important creative force in the music of the 20th century. Duke Ellington plays “Take the A Train.”

Fisk Jubilee Singers – “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”

Dizzie Gillespie and Louis Armstrong playing “Umbrella Man” on the 1959 Timex Jazz Show on CBS.

Herbie Hancock – Videos of Herbie Hancock can be found here.

Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong – “The Blues are Brewin’.” Billie Holiday has received many awards posthumously including over ten Grammy Awards and the Grammy Hall of Fame, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame, Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame and many more. Billie Holiday remains one of the most popular Jazz singers even today and her intimate and personal approach to singing along with her unique and amazing phrasing make her one the greatest ever in Jazz. Her style continues to influence singers in various genres and while many try and imitate her, there will never be another Billie Holiday.

Lena Horne – “Moon River” 

Mahalia Jackson, known as the Queen of Gospel sings “Amazing Grace”, “The Battle of Jericho”, and “Steal Away.”

Etta James – “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”

Scott Joplin – “The Entertainer” and “Maple Leaf Rag”

B. B. King – “The Thrill is Gone”

Leadbelly – “House of the Rising Sun”

Jelly Roll Morten – “Hesitation Blues” and “King Porter Stomp”

Paul Robeson – “Let My People Go” and  “Ol’ Man River”

Nina Simone – “I Wish I Knew How It Feels to Be Free”

Bessie Smith – “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home” and “Yellowdog Blues”

Sister Rosetta Tharpe – “Strange Things Happening Every Day” and “This Little Light of Mine”

Sarah Vaughan – “Round Midnight”

Fats Waller – “Ain’t Misbehavin” and “This Joint is Jumpin”

Muddy Waters Blues Band – “Honky Tonk”