Music from the Civil Rights Movement

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Music from the Civil Rights Movement

To honor black history month, the White House put on a series of concerts in "Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement.” The roster of musicians included Bob Dylan, Jennifer Hudson, Smokey Robinson, and Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon. Reagon was one of the original Freedom Singers, a group of musicians that formed in the early 1960s who, through their music, organized young people and helped lay the foundation of the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Reagon is also one of the founding members of the all-women's group Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Toshi Reagon is the daughter of Bernice and, like her mother, she has pursued a meaningful music career. Toshi performs across the country and has recorded at least 10 CDs. If you can remember the last episode of S4 of TLW, Toshi sang on the beach with Kit and crew (while Jenny set sail with her dog in a life boat). Velvetpark put Toshi on the cover of our second issue way back in the day, so when I was scrolling through the website last week and saw Toshi singing with her mom in front of POTUS, I emailed her immediately to ask how she got there.

Our chat was a totally enlightening discussion for me, as Toshi put into perspective the meaning of the music of the Civil Rights era:

Moon: Toshi! how did you get to play for the President and the First Family at the White House?

Toshi: They have been doing a series of concerts at the White House that reflect music that has built America. I think this is the fifth one.

This concert was a celebration of music from the Civil Rights Movement. They asked my mom, and she asked me, and she told them that there were still three singers alive from the SNCC Freedom Singers.
Moon: Did they all go too?

Toshi: Yes, my father [Cordell Hull Reagon] was the fourth member, but he is dead. My mom brought the other two remaining members Charles Neblett and Rutha Harris.
Moon: What song did you perform?

Toshi: We sang "(Ain't Gonna let Nobody) Turn Me Around."

Moon: Wow... What did it mean to you — to get invited to the White House and to play for the first family and to spotlight this era of American History?

Comments [8]

Rusty's picture

100% agree

"Well, you know that ain't a bad way to get there." Indeed. Thanks, Grace.

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna

minniesota's picture


Grace, that video was so inspiring. I loved seeing the faces of the people in the audience as well as the perfomers. Thanks again for the interview with Toshi and the video.

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

Kelly McCartney's picture

so good

Toshi said it so well there at the end.

And, man, I love Bernice's voice and spirit. Too bad POTUS couldn't find the two to clap along!

Won't you be my neighbor? @theKELword

Not2Taem's picture

Unclench, perhaps?

Not sure if he lacks rhythm, or just needs to let go. I know with all the talk of birth certificates I should know this, but I wonder if he might be a Virgo with Virgo rising. I also noticed that he stopped trying at the jailhouse; hesitant to encourage breaking the law? And now we have come full round to uptight.

Excellent vid! Couldn't help singing along. Three times.  Laughing out loud

Grace Moon's picture


Bernice is the shit.

tweet tweet @gracemoon

Kelly McCartney's picture


So glad I got to see Sweet Honey before she left. Amazing.

Won't you be my neighbor? @theKELword

minniesota's picture


The music was the place that you held yourself.

Thanks to Toshi and others we will never forget the power of music.

I heard an interview about this on NPR a couple of weeks agon on Talk of the Nation. Both Toshi and her mother, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, were on the program.That program segment is here:

Also, you can hear an hour-long NPR Concert Special here:

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

Maro's picture

toshi reagon interview

enjoyed this interview.