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Civil rights singer to present 'songtalk'

by Judy Hughes last modified Oct 21, 2010 02:20 PM

Oct. 21, 2010


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Civil rights activist, singer and historian Bernice Johnson Reagon will blend music and message in her "songtalk" performance during the fourth annual Anne Braden Memorial Lecture Nov. 5 at the University of Louisville.


Reagon, one of The Freedom Singers for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s, will present "The Civil Rights Movement and Students: Creating a Vital, Transformative Change in the Struggle for American Freedom." The free, public event will begin at 6 p.m. in the School of Music's Comstock Hall, and a reception will follow the performance.


UofL's Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research sponsors the lecture; both are named for a Louisvillian active in the civil rights movement for nearly six decades. The School of Music is a co-sponsor this year.


            Reagon, American University history professor emerita, is also the former curator of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. She is considered a specialist in African American oral history, performance and protest traditions. Accolades include the Heinz Family Foundation's Heinz Award in the arts and humanities in 2003 and the National Endowment for the Humanities' Charles Frankel Prize for contributions to the public understanding of humanities.


            Reagon began her freedom music during civil rights protests against segregation in the South while a student at Albany State College in Georgia during the 1960s. Besides her work with the SNCC Freedom Singers, she later founded the Washington, D.C.-based a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock. An Emmy-nominated PBS documentary hosted by Bill Moyers, "The Songs are Free: Bernice Johnson Reagon," featured her work in 1991.


            In conjunction with Reagon's talk, the Yearlings Club will host a Freedom Sing-out fundraiser the previous night to benefit the Anne Braden Memorial Lecture. Cynthia Fletcher and Carol Kraemer will perform songs from the freedom movement during the event from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Nov. 4 at the club, 4309 W. Broadway.


For more information, call Amber Duke at 502-852-6142 or visit



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