On Friday, January 20 at 7 pm the Saint Louis Art Museum will host its annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Celebration. The event will include a screening of the film Let Freedom Sing: How Music Inspired the Civil Rights Movement and a performance by the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church choir.
The Civil Rights Movement and music are forever intertwined. The beginning of the movement can be traced back to the gospel music sung within the Black church, which always has served as a place of refuge during times of struggle. The songs heard in these houses of worship became our hymns of hope, healing, and perseverance. In addition to gospel music, other genres like rhythm and blues, jazz, and rap influenced how the American public engaged with and perceived the movement. The sit-ins, marches, and boycotts that marked the 1950s and 60s were often accompanied by a soundtrack of popular music, gospel songs, and protest anthems.
Let Freedom Sing: How Music Inspired the Civil Rights Movement is a documentary celebrating the song writers, singers, and anthems that played a critical role in shaping the Civil Rights Movement as we know it today. The film emphasizes the ability of music to be both uplifting and unifying, with people of all races and ethnicities finding common ground through the popular songs of the 1950s and 60s. These songs captured the spirt and pain felt by African Americans during the civil rights era but also the commitment of many activists to continue the fight for fair and equal treatment under the law.
The Saint Louis Art Museum holds in its collection more than 100 photographs by Moneta Sleet Jr., the first African American man to win a Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography. His images captured a revolution and would come to define the struggle for racial equality in America. The museum’s collection—which includes images of MLK, freedom marches, and boycotts—were the impetus for the first MLK Freedom Celebration, and it continues to inspire Museum programs and events.
Tickets for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Celebration may be reserved in person at the Museum’s Information Centers.