Then Mrs. Hamer would lead us in a song, so we could lighten ourselves and give ourselves that extra boost of energy. We would sing about anything we felt.We would sing about why we sing. We would sing about the abuses we suffered,like not being allowed to vote. We would sing of sorrow and hope.
Dorothy Cotton, describing the purpose of singing in Freedom Schools
About New York; The Boss Lets Freedom Ring, With Banjo
By DAN BARRY New York TimesJune 28, 2006THIS is what you would do. Close the bedroom door to the quiet indignities of childhood.Unclasp a small but hefty box to reveal a now forgotten device called a portable recordplayer. Plug it in.Make a selection from the albums your parents bought when they used to listen to music. No,not Mitch Miller and his Gang. No, not Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Where's theskinny guy with the reedy voice, always singing about freedom? Here
. Pete Seeger.
Place the needle down on a disc now spinning in promise, catch the groove, and allow oldwords and ancient melodies to seep in until they could never be removed. The skips andhisses on the scratched records are as ingrained as the choruses in memory.You did not listen to be cool; in this age of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, you wereunlikely to impress a girl by singing the opening lines to ''Erie Canal'' (''I've got a mule andher name is Sal ''). Not that you ever summoned the nerve to speak to girls, much less sing tothem.No, you listened because you found something affirming in songs that honored hard work,struggle and standing up for what you believe. You felt connected to your immigrant roots, toyour African-American neighbors and to your country, of which you sang with innocentpride. You felt connected to your father, to your mother.In the era of King and Kennedys shot, you would sit beside the record player and sing, ''OhMary don't you weep don't you moan, oh Mary don't you weep don't you moan. Pharaoh'sarmy got drowneded, oh Mary don't you weep.'' And feel the consolation.In the era of Vietnam and civil rights battles, you would sing, ''We shall overcome, we shallovercome, we shall overcome someday.'' And believe it.Then you grew up. Vietnam ended like an unfinished sentence, and King and the Kennedyssettled into the abstraction of history. Your mother died and your father stopped singing. Thealbums went to storage.2