The reflection of racism through Music (primarly r&b/soul)

  • Harriet Tubman

    Harriet Tubman
    Harriet Tubman is famously known for freeing slaves over the span of many years without ever getting caught. After her escape from enslavement in 1849, shortly after she would keep going back to rescue slaves and bring them to freedom; using the underground railway. She is one of the pioneers of the black community.
  • Jim Crow/Jim Crow Law

    Jim Crow/Jim Crow Law
    Thomas D. Rice developed a stage character called Jim Crow. This racist portrayal of African Americans and their culture was popularised by Rice. He'd put on a black face, wear a bed cap, dress in rages, and wear tattered shoes. Rice came up with the concept of Jim Crow after seeing a slave on one of his excursions (1830). Decades later, the Jim Crow Law was enacted in order to enforce segregation in Southern America (1870s), and many other states followed suit.
  • Marion, Indiana Lynching

    Marion, Indiana Lynching
    White mobs seized three young black inmates from Marion, Indiana's jail and lynched Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith. At the time, this racial inequality was not uncommon. Unfortunately, black individuals had no say in the matter of rights, let alone their own. Racism was incredibly prevalent in this era of time.
  • Scottsboro Boys Trial

    Scottsboro Boys Trial
    Nine African-American teenagers reclaimed as The Scottsboro Boys, ages 12-19, were accused in Alabama of raping two white women in 1931. The trial was labelled as unfair and racist on several different grounds. Again, at the time black individuals weren't seen as equal to society, this meant it was easy for them to be accused, harassed and publically shamed for no reason at all.
  • The Scottsboro Boys by Leadbelly

    Leadbelly based this song on the trial of the Scottsboro boys. He used the song to translate the racial divide in Alabama. "I'm gonna tell all the coloured people
    Even the old n**** here
    Don't ya ever go to Alabama
    And try to live Go to Alabama and ya better watch out
    The landlord'll get ya, gonna jump and shout
    Scottsboro Scottsboro Scottsboro boys
    Gon' tell ya all about"
  • Strange Fruit- Billie Holiday

    Inspired by the Marion, Indiana Lynching in 1930 or more specifically lynching of African Americans in the South . The song gained mass popularity following Billie Holidays cover, it became a protest song. However, she received numerous death threats from detractors. Her refusal to stop singing the song placed her in prison, barred her from some nightclubs, and played a significant role in her early death in 1959.
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    Civil Rights Movement

    A campaign run by Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, the Little Rock Nine, etc to eliminate legalized racial discrimination and racial segregation in the United States. This is (one of) the biggest events in black history because it finally gave African Americans equal rights. It was the stepping stone to combat racism in society.
  • Emmett Louis Till

    Emmett Louis Till
    A 14-year-old African-American boy, Emmett Louis Till was killed in Mississippi after allegedly insulting a white woman at her family's grocery business. His case was passed on with no questions asked just as many others because he was black. The racism displayed here is one of the most profound and reflects onto superiority complexes.
  • Bakai - John Coltrane

    Although the song has no lyrics, John Coltrane used deep tones to signify this beautiful jazz song written in memory of Emmett Till. Bakai means "cry" in Arabic. This time era was when black individuals were on the rise in the music industry, but not quite free from the shackles of white supremacy.
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    Little Rock Nine

    They were a group of African-American high school students that fought against racial segregation (in Little Rock, Arkansas). They were attending an all-white high school. They held a protest to fight for equality, that was not favoured.
  • A Change Is Gonna Come - Sam Cooke

    A Change Is Gonna Come - Sam Cooke
    He composed this as a protest song in favour of the civil rights movement (during which Black Americans campaigned for equality). This song is one of the most popular protest songs. “This song, recorded decades ago, hasn’t lost any of its power. The marches that took place around the world over the weekend showed how necessary citizen action is to bending history toward justice.” — Said Dave Eggers as part of the 1000 Days, 1000 Songs Project.
  • Why? (Am I Treated So Bad)- The Staple Singers

    Why? (Am I Treated So Bad)- The Staple Singers
    This song is inspired by the events with the Little Rock Nine. It depicted the racism that was presented to Black individuals for no reason at all, for their existence felt like it was an issue. "You know I'm all alone
    While I sing this song
    Hear my call
    I've done nobody wrong
    But I'm treated so bad
    Ohh so bad"
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    They Don't Care About Us - Michael Jackson

    The song in fact is about the pain of prejudice and hate and is a way to draw attention to social and political problems - Jackson told the New York Times on June 15, 1995.
  • Million Man March

    Million Man March
    It was organized by Louis Farrakhan, to bring a sense of responsibility to African- American men for improving the conditions of African- Americans; Michael Jackson donated $100,000 quietly to the cause.
  • Changes - Tupac

    Tupac delivers a song that goes way before his time and long after his death. It talks about the ongoing battle with police brutality, and racism in general towards that black community and the war on drugs.
  • Officer Philip Nace

    Officer Philip Nace
    A controversy where a Philadelphian police officer, Philip Nace pulled over two black males for walking on the street, one of whom filmed the encounter on his mobile phone. In this encounter, he proceeded to break several laws. This also wasn't the first time he was reported for misconduct in the area he was working in (predominantly coloured), yet that was overlooked without an explanation.
  • Michael Brown

    Michael Brown
    Darren Wilson, a police officer, shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014. This incident led to the founding of the Black Live Matter protests. Also Wilson wasn't charged with the murder because of "lack of evidence", concluding it was self defense, even though many witnesses say other wise. This shows the lack of want to bring justice for black men who were wrongfully murdered.
  • Black Rage (Sketch) - Lauryn Hill

    In reaction to the growing unrest in Ferguson following the shooting of Michael Brown. Michael Brown Jr. was an 18-year-old black male who was fatally shot by a Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, on August 9, 2014. Hill was just reprising a tremendous song in the aftermath of this tragedy and about how the black community is treated.
  • The Story Behind Freedom

    The Story Behind Freedom
    Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar take listeners on a journey that begins with enslavement in the United States and continues through systematic racism and injustice. With the help of artist Kendrick Lamar, numerous black men's (ex. Michael Brown) contacts with law enforcement have been brought to light. While Beyonce speaks of conquering oppression, social ills (ex. racism) and achieving freedom.
  • The Death's of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile

    The Death's of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile
    Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old African-American father of five, was shot by two white police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on July 5, 2016. The next day, a police officer in St. Paul, Minnesota, shot and killed Philando Castile for violating a traffic violation. Both of these police-involved homicides sparked outrage and support for the Black Lives Matter movement across the United States. Their stories are one of many, show the injustice against the black community.
  • Better Days - Victoria Monet and Ariana Grande

    The day after Grande posted a statement on twitter regarding the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Victoria Monet featuring Ariana Grande put out the song. The song was wishing for better days to come.
  • Meaning Behind This Is America

    Meaning Behind This Is America
    Donald Glover, wrote this song so people would have a good song for July 4th (America's Independence Day). America is known as the "land of the free," but Glover challenges this notion in this song by demonstrating that there is a history of black oppression dating back to Jim Crow and police, which contradicts that America is the "land of the free," especially in the music video - according to Justin Simien. The topic of gun violence is addressed in this song.
  • Hands Up - Vince Staples

    Staples on story with law enforcement and in general abuse from the police.
  • Deeper Dive Into Hands Up - Vince Staples

    Deeper Dive Into Hands Up - Vince Staples
    He revisits his personal encounters with police enforcement in this song. He also discusses the continued misuse of power that has led to the deaths of several young African American males who were wrongfully accused of being criminals. Also discussed is the long-term psychological impact on victims of police violence, discrimination, and misuse of authority.
  • Stand Up - Cynthia Erivo

    Stand Up - Cynthia Erivo
    This song was not only used for the Harriet, who 100 years ago helped many slave get away from enslavement and celebrating her legacy. But this song was also a famously used song on social media when posting about Black Lives Matter (BLM) back in 2020.
  • Trouble In Town - Coldplay

    This song was Coldplay's take on addressing racial politics in America. They refer to events like Michael Brown & the controversy of policeman Philip Nace. The song includes an audio snippet of the encounter with Philip Nace and it's horrific. "Trouble in town (Oh-oh)
    Because they hung my Brother Brown
    Because their system just keep you down
    There's trouble, there's trouble in town And I get no shelter
    And I get no peace
    And I just get more police, eh"