In the 1960s, the songleaders, along with the community voices, took spirituals and changed a word here or there to reflect the struggle against segregation.
“Woke Up This Morning with My Mind Stayed on Jesus,” was changed to “stayed on freedom” or just “on freedom.” In “We Shall Not Be Moved,” the 1960s line was “segregation is our enemy, it must be removed.”
Bernice Johnson Reagon, one of the Freedom Singers, said the songs were “the language that focused the energy of the people who filled the streets and roads of the South during that period.”
In a panel at the Smithsonian Institution in April 2011, a group of women who worked in the Movement discussed their roles. And, a trio of veterans showed the passion and meaning of the songs 50 years later.
Johnson joins the singers, who also do “We Shall Not Be Moved”and “Oh Freedom.”