Civil Rights Era Protest Songs

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  • Marvin Gaye
  • Gil Scott Heron
  • John Coltrane
  • The Staple Singers
  • Grant Green
  • Billie Holiday
  • Bob Dylan
  • Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Sam Cooke
  • Nina Simone
  • Otis Redding
  • Aretha Franklin
  • James Brown

John Coltrane – "Alabama" (1963)

Jazz saxophonist John Coltrane penned "Alabama" in 1963 in response to the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, which took the lives of four black girls. The Birmingham, Alabama, attack on a black church, initiated by local Ku Klux Klan members, contributed to widespread support for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In 2007, Coltrane won a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation for the powerful song that acknowledged the tragedy.

(Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

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