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Neal, Brandi Amanda (2006) "WE SHALL OVERCOME": FROM BLACK CHURCH MUSIC TO FREEDOM SONG. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The music sung by protesters in the American Civil Rights Movement was inseparable from the music in black Protestant churches. Despite the firm boundaries between the sacred and the secular in black Baptist and Methodist traditions, protesters adapted sacred hymns for secular protest use. Termed freedom songs, the music bound protesters together by shared spiritual associations with the music and by a communal performance experience. This study explores the adaptation process of the freedom song using "We Shall Overcome" as a case study. An examination of the traditions of black American church institutions and the musical and textual attributes of the adapted song genres clarifies the methods by which protesters transformed sacred hymns and songs. Elements of black sacred music, simple and repetitive melodies and texts and universal themes, facilitated the adaptation of sacred hymns and songs. "We Shall Overcome" embodied all the adaptive musical characteristics inherent in freedom songs but at an elevated level. Moreover, additional functions of the black church, for example to serve as socioeconomic support to the oppressed black community in post-Civil War America, transformed social activism into a spiritual endeavor. It was inevitable that sacred traditions, namely music, aided social activism.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Neal, Brandi AmandaBan14@pitt.eduBAN14
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairRoot, Deane L
Committee MemberFranklin, Don O
Committee MemberCassaro, James P
Committee MemberLewis, Mary S
Date: 27 June 2006
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 3 February 2006
Approval Date: 27 June 2006
Submission Date: 25 April 2006
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Music
Degree: MA - Master of Arts
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: african-american sacred music; black church; civil rights movement; gospel; spirituals
Other ID:, etd-04252006-053939
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:42
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:42


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