Rhiannon Giddens Sings Slave Narratives / Freedom Singer Bernice Johnson Reagon

Fresh Air

By NPR

Rhiannon Giddens Sings Slave Narratives / Freedom Singer Bernice Johnson Reagon

Friday, 19 June

Singer and banjo player Rhiannon Giddens' 2017 album 'Freedom Highway' includes songs based on slave narratives. She notes that the modern banjo draws from the African instrument known as the akonting, which is made from a gourd. "In the first 100 years of its existence, the [American] banjo was known as a plantation instrument, as a black instrument," she says.

During the civil rights movement, Bernice Johnson Reagon sang freedom songs from jail, in marches and churches. She was a founding member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee's Freedom Singers in the '60s. She spoke with Terry Gross in 1988 about the songs she sang as an activist.
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