Every year, Bernice Johnson Reagon of the Smithsonian's Program in Black American Culture organizes special programs to commemorate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., but this year's seem particularly powerful. On Saturday at 1 p.m., "Making a Revolution: The Music, Tears and Joy" will feature a lecture by veteran civil rights activist Dorothy Cotton; at 2 p.m., Cotton and the original Freedom Singers (including Reagon) will present a song workshop. That evening, Sweet Honey in the Rock, In Process and the Freedom Singers (with a cameo appearance by Pete Seeger) will give two community concerts at First Congregational Church, 10th and G streets NW.

During the '60s, the Freedom Singers were rightly seen as a major voice of the civil rights movement. They have reunited on several special occasions over the last two decades, including the 20th anniversary of the March on Washington, and it's a special occasion that brings them together this weekend: Jim Brown -- who made the Oscar-winning documentary on the Weavers, "Wasn't That a Time!" -- is making a film about the movement anthem, "We Shall Overcome."

"Last year when Sweet Honey did {the King birthday} program, we had a set of civil rights movement/freedom songs, so I suggested if he wanted to bring the Freedom Singers in a reunion, and also bring Pete in to do something like 'The Hammer Song,' he could film it here," Reagon explains.

The concerts are at 7 and 10:30 p.m. (for ticket information, call 829-5151). The Cotton program, which is free, will be in the Museum of American History's Carmichael Auditorium.

Cotton was a longtime director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Citizenship Education Program. "Every time a movement would start, the leaders would come up from the local level to one of her workshops, where they'd be taught the political structure of the city, county and state and the regulations for that state on how to register to vote," says Reagon. "They would then go back to their communities and set up classes to teach people this information. It really becomes visible how important that program was when you look at the registration books in the South today."

'Black Music on Film'

Tomorrow, the Martin Luther King Memorial Library and UDC kick off a film series titled "Boogie, Be-Bop and the Blues: Black Music on Film." The series, curated by UDC's Black Film Institute, begins at the King Library with "Cissy Houston -- Sweet Inspiration" (David Davidson's hour-long portrait of Whitney's mom, a great gospel singer in her own right) and "The International Sweethearts of Rhythm" (Greta Schiller and Andrea Weiss' study of the all-woman, interracial '40s jazz band). Speakers will include Antoinette Handy, director of the NEA's music program and author of several books on the Sweethearts and similar groups, and Pearl Williams Jones, professor of gospel music at UDC, who is a performing artist as well.

Next Tuesday at the Van Ness campus, film archivist and jazz specialist Michael Chertok will show some of his father's rare jazz clips. On Jan. 21, back at the King Library, the focus will be on African music with Jacques Halender's "Juju Music," Jim Rosselini's "Dance of the Bella" and Gei Zantinter's "Songs of the Bodius." The series concludes back at UDC on Jan. 26 with another jazz program featuring two films by Burrill Crohn, "The Coltrane Legacy" and "Trumpet Kings." Village Voice writer Stanley Crouch will also speak. The screenings -- free and open to the public -- take place at 6 p.m., in both Room A5 at the King Library and Building 41, Room AO3 on the Van Ness campus.

In Hank Williams Country

One of the most comprehensive single-artist reissue projects ever undertaken by a major label has just been completed. Two years ago, Polygram started to put together all the recorded output of Hank Williams. With the recent "Let's Turn Back the Years" and "I Won't Be Home No More," Polygram ended up with eight double albums representing Williams' entire output from December 1946 to September 1952; included are some 40 previously unreleased songs, such as the gospel-oriented demos Williams recorded at home (on "Let's Turn Back the Years"). The material was arranged chronologically and in its original, undubbed form, with research and liner notes by the compilers of the sets, Hank Davis and Colin Escott of the Country Music Foundation.

The CMF has recently reissued Dorothy Horstman's "Sing Your Heart Out, Country Boy," which contains the lyrics to 350 country classics along with intriguing commentary on each song by the writer (or his heirs, or the original performers). Broken up into 15 categories (Lost and Unrequited Love, Death and Sorrow, Cheatin' Song, etc.) and, devoid of sociological mumbo jumbo, "Sing Your Heart Out" -- which has been considerably updated -- offers one of the most readable and jolly musical histories imaginable.