John Milton Wesley / Blog

Music the "Life Blood" of the Civil Rights Movement

2/9/11 Long before the cameras arrived, there were songs like "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn me 'Round", and "This Little Light of Mine". and "Oh Freedom" that prepared our minds for the mass meetings, and marches, and to face the potential brutality for daring to challenge the status quo. On radio there was Curtis Mayfield telling us to "Keep on Pushing", and Sam Cooke reminding us that "A Change Was Gonna' Come", and Otis Redding telling us again. Then there was Peter, Paul, and Mary consoling our sisters and mothers with the possibility Oh Mary Don't You Weep Don’t' chu Moan cause Pharaoh’s Army Got Drown'ded". I will never forget those nights at The Masonic Temple on Lynch Street in Jackson, MS before a planned march the next day. Many times at the end of the uplifting speeches, and instructions on non-violet tactics, and how to shield your body from blows that were sure to come, and to make sure you had a pack of "Lark" cigarettes (with the charcoal filter) in your pocket in case there was tear gas and you needed to breathe, that the curtain would open behind the speaker and there would Carlos Santana, or Ramsey Lewis and his trio, or Charles Shirley and his group, or The Staple Singers. We will forever be indebted to the artists who encouraged us with their lyrics at a time when often our only defense were the songs in our hearts. Thank you. John Milton Wesley and Happy Black History Month!