Singing for Equality
Teacher Resources

Singing for Equality: Musicians of the Civil Rights Era

Singing for Equality: Musicians of the Civil Rights Era introduces middle graders to the history of the Civil Rights Movement and explores the vital role that music played in the tumultuous period of American history during the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s.

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"The Civil Rights Era series seeks to introduce middle school students to influential individuals who figured prominently in the struggle for civil rights. Engaging biographies, usually five per volume, provide detailed looks at subjects’ lives, motivations, contributions, and legacies. Each book’s unique introduction sets the political and social scene with pages filled with graphics (time lines, fact boxes, photos, reproductions, posters, album covers) and short paragraphs highlighted in blocks of color and set off by different fonts. Insets offer quotes, open-ended questions (what’s the big idea, how would this make you feel, what might you have done), and QR codes that link to news stories, speeches, music, and other primary sources. Important vocabulary words are defined in a comprehensive glossary, and additional back matter includes a list of resources and a selected bibliography. Singing for Equality profiles such musicians as Bob Dylan, Mavis Staples and the Staple Singers, Sam Cooke, James Brown, and Nina Simone. Sitting In, Standing Up spotlights leaders, including Thurgood Marshall, Fannie Lou Hamer, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X (who are covered in one chapter), John Lewis, and Ella Baker. There is necessarily some overlap in coverage, but the revisited material comes across as reinforcement as opposed to repetition. Overall, these volumes provide accessible entries into a complex period."

School Library Journal
Gr 6-9–"This collective biography spotlights five iconic musicians whose careers influenced the Civil Rights Movement. Each chapter discusses the highlights of the artist’s career, how their music impacted the quest for equal rights, and how the era affected their careers. Bob Dylan, Mavis Staples and the Staple Singers, Sam Cooke, James Brown, and Nina Simone were prominent figures in the time period and galvanized change in small and large measures. The chapters are easy to read and provide an accessible narrative. The text includes bright colors and many photographs. QR codes link to YouTube videos that feature songs of each singer and offer questions to keep readers thinking. Activities and projects listed at the end of each chapter help to extend classroom discussion. A table of contents, a glossary, an index, and further reading are included. The layout and design features are almost like a textbook. VERDICT This title will appeal to young readers who want to further their interest in music or the civil rights era. A worthwhile purchase."

Children’s Literature
“The writing is breezy and conversational and encourage active participation through research activities, QR codes linking to YouTube videos, and “Wonder Why” questions that allow readers to make connections to their own lives and experiences. Although the narrative is engaging enough for pleasure reading, the format lends itself well to browsing, with quote pullouts, textboxes, timelines, primary source photos, and lists.

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Detailed Book Description

Singing for Equality: Musicians of the Civil Rights Era introduces middle graders to the history of the Civil Rights Movement and explores the vital role that music played in the tumultuous period of American history during the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s.

The heart of the Civil Rights Movement beats in the music and musicians of the times, whose work was both an inspiration and a reflection of the changes happening in America and to its people. Bob Dylan, Mavis Staples and the Staple Singers, Nina Simone, Sam Cooke, and James Brown all epitomized the passion and commitment shown by those involved in the movement, and portrayed the struggles encountered by an entire race of people with gritty beauty and moving calls to action and thought.

Hands-on projects about social justice issues alongside essential questions, links to online resources, and text-to-world connections promote a profound understanding of history and offer opportunities for social-emotional learning.

Try these critical and creative thinking projects!

  • Compare music now to music then
  • Write your own lyrics
  • Deconstruct songs
Available In:
Paperback, $15.95
Hardcover, $22.95
Includes: Table of Contents | Timeline | Glossary | Resources | Index
Specs: 8 x 10 size | 4-color interior | 112 pages
Subject: Social Studies
Content Focus: U.S. History


Feel the Beat

Chapter One
Bob Dylan
The Times They Are A-Changin’

Chapter Two
Mavis Staples and the Staple Singers
The Gospel of the Civil Rights Movement

Chapter Three
Nina Simone
How Would It Feel to Be Free?

Chapter Four
Sam Cooke
Change Gonna’ Come

Chapter Five
James Brown
Black and Proud

Selected Bibliography