Anthem

Social Movements and the Sound of Solidarity in the African Diaspora

356 pages

6 halftones illustrations

December, 2013

ISBN: 9780814770412

$27

Paper

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Author

Shana L. Redmond is Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. She is a former musician and labor organizer.

All books by Shana L. Redmond

For people of African descent, music constitutes a unique domain of expression. From traditional West African drumming to South African kwaito, from spirituals to hip-hop, Black life and history has been dynamically displayed and contested through sound. Shana Redmond excavates the sonic histories of these communities through a genre emblematic of Black solidarity and citizenship: anthems. An interdisciplinary cultural history, Anthem reveals how this “sound franchise” contributed to the growth and mobilization of the modern, Black citizen. Providing new political frames and aesthetic articulations for protest organizations and activist-musicians, Redmond reveals the anthem as a crucial musical form following World War I.
   
Beginning with the premise that an analysis of the composition, performance, and uses of Black anthems allows for a more complex reading of racial and political formations within the twentieth century, Redmond expands our understanding of how and why diaspora was a formative conceptual and political framework of modern Black identity. By tracing key compositions and performances around the world—from James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” that mobilized the NAACP to Nina Simone’s “To Be Young, Gifted & Black” which became the Black National Anthem of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)—Anthem develops a robust recording of Black social movements in the twentieth century that will forever alter the way you hear race and nation.

Reviews

  • "An extraordinary, innovative and generative book. Shana Redmond reveals how musical anthems served as powerful sources of inspiration and as crucial mechanisms for social mobilization in twentieth century Black freedom struggles around the world. She presents fascinating portraits of individual performer-activists including Paul Robeson, Miriam Makeba, and Nina Simone, while delineating the largely unknown social histories of significant songs such as "Lift Every Voice and Sing," "Old Man River," "We Shall Overcome," and "Nkosi Sikilel' iAfrika." More than any previous scholar, Redmond shows how musical practices and performances enabled people of African origin all around the world to establish themselves as an aggrieved and insurgent people struggling for freedom and justice."

    —George Lipsitz, author of How Racism Takes Place

  • Anthem is truly a tour de force. Deeply-researched, brilliantly conceived, and beautifully written, the book reveals how ‘anthems’ register both a collective sense of history and a vision of the future for aggrieved groups—not just people of African-descent. Anthem will stand as the model for transnational scholarship for years to come.”

    —Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times