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From Civil Rights to #BlackLivesMatter: The Music Is the Movement

This curriculum unit, designed for a high school English class, examines the importance of protest music during the Civil Rights movement and how music has changed and reshaped itself into protest anthems for the #BlackLivesMatter movement of the 21st century. Beginning with the importance of protest songs in the 1950s and 60s during Civil Rights campaigns including sit-ins, marches, and boycotts, students will examine how music provided the soundtrack for social change. As the unit progresses, they will analyze how that soundtrack has changed over the years, and will analyze the similarities and differences between protest music then and now. Standards covered include literacy, especially in informational texts; writing for varied purposes, including explanatory and argumentative tasks; and integration of multiple sources in research and presentation. Key objectives for this unit are that students will identify similarities and differences between musical styles and messages (i.e. Underground Railroad spirituals and Civil Rights protest songs), and the repurposing of songs for protest purposes; and that students will analyze contemporary music associated with the Black Lives Matter movement for similarities and differences to previous protest music (i.e. Civil Rights and Black Panther Party era music).

Amanda Schear
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