Historically, African Americans musicians and groups have used their music and platforms to promote Black strength and power, such as Public Enemy鈥檚 1989 鈥淔ight the Power.鈥 (Courtesy photo)
Historically, African Americans musicians and groups have used their music and platforms to promote Black strength and power, such as Public Enemy鈥檚 1989 鈥淔ight the Power.鈥 (Courtesy photo) Credit: Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of the Jack Mitchell Archives, 酶 Jack Mitchell, All Rights Reserved

From Negro spirituals to popular music today, Black artists have used music as a source of strength and power to encourage African Americans and others to continue in their fight for freedom.

Consider the post-slavery spiritual, 鈥.鈥澛 The lyrics are a declaration of hope: 鈥淥h freedom. Oh freedom. Oh freedom over me. And before I鈥檇 be a slave, I鈥檒l be buried in my grave, and go home to my Lord and be free.鈥澛

Then think about the 2016 song 鈥淔reedom,鈥 by Beyonc茅 Knowles Carter鈥檚 and featuring Kendrick Lamar. 鈥淔reedom, freedom, I can鈥檛 move. Freedom, cut me loose. Singing, freedom, freedom, where are you? 鈥楥ause I need freedom, too. I break chains all by myself. Won鈥檛 let freedom rot in hell. Hey! I鈥檓a keep running, 鈥榗ause a winner don鈥檛 quit on themselves,鈥 Carter sings emphatically.

Both songs promote resilience and strength 鈥 breaking beyond the chains of systemic racism and oppression that remain almost 160 years since the official end to American chattel slavery in 1865.聽

As the , the creators of Black History month, examine 鈥淎frican Americans and the Arts,鈥 as its 2024 theme, Black music emerges as a critical artform that assists in pushing toward equity and justice for all.

鈥淲hy the Black Arts? Because we built this nation on the constructs of singing and music and rhythm, even when we were going through struggles鈥 music allowed us to keep persevering and pressing forward,鈥 Michele Folwin, artistic director of told The Informer in a WIN-TV interview.

Through songs that stir spirits and rally movements, Black artists remind audiences of the power of African American music beyond February or June鈥檚 national recognition of Black Music Month. 

Black artists constantly contribute to American culture overall.

鈥淸African Americans鈥橾 creativity has given rise to distinctly American art forms that influence contemporary music worldwide and sing to the soul of the American experience,鈥 .

This February, in joining ASALH in celebrating 鈥淎frican Americans and the Arts,鈥 be sure to listen to some of the Black musicians who have encouraged freedom and promoted Black power through their music.

Below are 20 songs that champion Black power and ignite the flame to continue the freedom fight, not only in February, but year round. 

  1. 鈥淟ift Every Voice and Sing鈥 by James Weldon Johnson (1900)
  2. 鈥淲e Shall Overcome鈥 (1901)
  3. 鈥淪trange Fruit鈥 by Billie Holiday (1939)
  4. 鈥淢ississippi Goddam,鈥 by Nina Simone (1964)
  5. 鈥淎 Change is Gonna Come,鈥 by Sam Cooke (1964)
  6. 鈥淪ay it Loud 鈥 I鈥檓 Black and I鈥檓 Proud,鈥 by James Brown (1968)
  7. 鈥淏all of Confusion,鈥 by The Temptations (1970)
  8. 鈥淲hat鈥檚 Going On?鈥 the song and album by Marvin Gaye (1971)
  9. 鈥淭he Revolution Will Not be Televised,鈥 by Gil Scott-Heron
  10. 鈥淗appy Birthday,鈥 by Stevie Wonder (1980)
  11. 鈥淔ight the Power,鈥 by The Isley Brothers and Public Enemy (1975, 1989)
  12. 鈥淜eep Ya Head Up,鈥 by Tupac (1993)
  13. 鈥淚 Believe,鈥 by Sounds of Blackness (1994)
  14. 鈥淭hey Don鈥檛 Really Care 番茄社区app Us,鈥 by Michael Jackson (1996)
  15. 鈥淚f I Ruled World (Imagine That),鈥 by Nas featuring Lauryn Hill (1996)
  16. 鈥淎lright,鈥 by Kendrick Lamar (2015)
  17. 鈥淕lory,鈥 by Common and John Legend (2015)
  18. 鈥淔reedom,鈥 by Beyonce featuring Kendrick Lamar (2016)
  19. 鈥淩oad to Freedom,鈥 Lenny Kravitz (2023)
  20. 鈥淐easefire,鈥 by聽 Ayana Gregory (2024)

WI Managing Editor Micha Green is a storyteller and actress from Washington, D.C. Micha received a Bachelor鈥檚 of Arts from Fordham University, where she majored in Theatre, and a Master鈥檚 of Journalism...

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