KEXP Documentaries: Civil Rights Songs – Oh Freedom


Hello KEXP friends, Michele Myers here. Every week I create a short story out of music and talking. We call these stories KEXP Documentaries. Our current series is Civil Rights Songs. And although it was one of the most difficult to research (because the crimes committed against African-Americans before and during the 50’s and 60’s in the US were horrifying), it is ending up to be one of the most inspiring subjects yet.

This past week’s civil rights song was sung by Odetta, an African-American woman who was born in the South, but because of her talent was able to travel all over the US. In these travels she saw people of all colors working together. So she decided she wanted to be part of the movement that would bring this togetherness to the whole country.

I think it’s difficult for us to understand the amount of courage it took for an African-American to step up to sing a song about equality during this time. Odetta risked her life every time she stepped up to sing “Oh Freedom”. When she sings the lyrics “Before I’ll be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave” – it’s not a metaphor.

Listen to the documentary now:

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KEXP Documentaries are produced by Michele Myers with assistance from John Felthous. Executive producer is Kevin Cole. KEXP Docs are made possible by a grant from the American Music Partnership of Seattle. You can hear all our series, including Punk Evolution, Musical Revolutionaries and Portraits of Post-Punk, in the on-demand section of

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