Songs have suffused the political scene throughout the course of American history. From anti-slavery songbooks compiled by fugitive slaves in the early nineteenth century to collaborative videos of recording superstars performing for famine relief in the late twentieth century, songs have helped accomplish goals of great social importance. Political campaigns have employed songs to create an aura around candidates. The Civil Rights Movement used songs to bind people together in a commitment to a better future. “The freedom songs are playing a strong and vital role in our struggle,” the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., reflected in 1962. “They give people new courage and a sense of unity. I think they keep alive a faith, a radiant hope in the future, particularly in our most trying hours.” Wars have produced both pro- and anti-war songs that have served as rival anthems during divisive times.
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