The Peace and Service Committee
Music and Protest with tonya thames taylor
Music, Protest, Discontent, & Peace Testimony
Pianist and songwriter Nina Simone, in her autobiography, I Put a Spell on You (1991), expresses skepticism of protest music, after the death of civil rights humanist Medgar Evers in June 1963, with this query, “How can you take the memory of a man like Medgar Evers and reduce all that he was to three and half minutes and a simple tune?” Yet, a few months later, after the murder of four black girls in Birmingham, AL, at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, she pens her discontent with violence in “Mississippi Goddam.” Before Simone, vocalist Billie Holiday laments lynching in “Strange Fruit.” Before Holiday, “We Don’t Have No Payday Here,” by Raiford Penitentiary’s black convicts in Florida, protests the convict lease system. So, what role music play in shaping American protest and memory of movements?
For those who bodies are the targets of violence, criminalization, caricature, and marginalization, music serves as a way to build communities, articulate grievances, and express frustration. For example, for poorer whites who fathers had little influence in the 1960s regarding the Vietnam draft, there is Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” that tells the story of the draft’s class disparities. This conversations explores music from nineteen-century convicts to today’s Kendrick Lamar; it shows how music transmits the values and identities of peace testimonies as it generates political mobilization. Reality is, not all demographics can afford or desire to be arrested. This reality makes those peace activists no less committed; it does acknowledge that there are various ways to protest. Participants will take away how music, including classical, can influence today’s testimonies, actions, and activism.
tonya thames taylor, Fallowfield Meeting, West Chester University, and @tonyathames
tonya thames taylor
Mississippi native and granddaughter of former sharecroppers, dr. tonya thames-taylor is an Associate Professor of History (American), founding director of the African American Studies Program, and member of the Executive Committee of the Frederick Douglass Institute at West Chester University. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Friends Historical Association (publisher of Quaker History) and Friends Publishing Corporation (publisher of Friends Journal). More locally, she is an active member of the American Association of University Women (AAWU), the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), and the Board of Directors for the People’s Hall in Ecuridoun PA. She is enthusiastically working on the restoration of People’s Hall, which was built by Quaker abolitionists and has served the community since 1846. She is also a Sustainer Member of the Junior League of Philadelphia.