Wednesday, May 22, 2024 6:00p -

Rabb Lecture Hall: Boston Public Libbrary
700 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02116

EventScheduled OfflineEventAttendanceMode


Hosted by:
bostonpubliclibrary Boston Public Library Adult Programs Department

History, Lectures & Conferences, Music, Social Good

Event website:

Music has always been central to the African American quest for freedom. The Civil Rights struggle and its music provided some of America’s most powerful calls of hope, moral clarity, and equity.

During the 19th century, spirituals such as Steal Away carried coded protest. In the 20th century, protest became explicit. In the 1930s Ethel Waters sang an anti-lynching song that shocked Broadway and Billie Holiday bravely recorded the stinging song Strange Fruit. Duke Ellington’s long career spoke for racial respect and civil rights in such pieces as Black Beauty and [Martin Luther] King Fit the Battle of Alabam’.

As political action picked up and in the 1950s and 1960s, We Shall Overcome became the clarion anthem of the Civil Rights movement and central to America’s moral quest for “a more perfect Union.” Old songs like This Little Light of Mine took on new meaning and fresh songs appeared such as If You Miss Me from the Back of the Bus. Black and white activists alike sang Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind. And great artists—such as Sam Cooke (A Change is Gonna Come), The Impressions (People Get Ready), James Brown (Say It Loud), Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, on up to The Roots—all sang to advance respect and equality.

Dr. John Edward Hasse, long-time music curator at the Smithsonian and Duke Ellington’s biographer, plays stirring video clips of these songs that inspired, motivated, and advocated for what Martin Luther King called for in his “I have a dream” speech: that we all be judged not by the color of our skin, “but by the content of our character.” He will also play works by W.C. Handy and Duke Ellington that helped lay the musical foundation for the Civil Rights movement.

This program will happen in-person (6 - 7:30 PM) and over Zoom webinar (6 - 7 PM). To register for in-person attendance, visit the "Registration Required" box on the event website. Doors will open 15 minutes in advance of the program for our in-person audience. In the event that registrations are at or over room capacity, registrants who arrive more than 10 minutes after the start of the program will have their reservation given to other patrons. To attend online, please visit this Zoom webinar registration page.

About Dr. John Edward Hasse

One of America’s foremost music historian-educators, Dr. John Edward Hasse helps audiences understand the power of music to move and inspire us to greater heights.

Hasse is a museum curator, author, speaker, and leader in his field. During his 33-year tenure at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, Curator Emeritus John Edward Hasse developed exhibitions on Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Ray Charles. He founded the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, now celebrating its 31st anniversary, and international Jazz Appreciation Month, which is celebrated in all 50 states and 40 other countries.

His books include an acclaimed biography, Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington, with a Foreword by Wynton Marsalis, and Jazz: The First Century, with Forewords by Quincy Jones and Tony Bennett. As an expert on 20th century music, he is a contributor to The Washington Post and eight encyclopedias and has written 50 articles on music for The Wall Street Journal.

For more biographical information, please visit his website.

Meet & Greet and Bookselling information

Dr. John Edward Hasse will be available for an in-person meet & greet from 7 - 7:30 PM following the the audience Q&A. There will no longer be in-person bookselling, but attendees may purchase Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington from Bookshop dot org by visiting this link.

This program is produced in partnership with the GBH Forum Network.

This program is part of the Lowell Lecture Series sponsored by the Lowell Institute.

Revolutionary Music: Music for Social Change” is a year-long overview of how music has spurred social change in the United States. It is the first in a series of three thematic years leading up to the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution. "Revolutionary Music" will use a combination of programs and examples from BPL's collections to celebrate music's rich history of catalyzing social change, acting as a powerful conduit for dissent, unity, awareness, and cultural influence. From spirituals to jazz, folk, reggae, punk, and hip-hop, various music genres have echoed societal shifts and served as a voice for some of the protests and movements that have changed the course of history. Through captivating performances and discussions, curated booklists and playlists, and thought-provoking displays, the BPL is set to explore and celebrate the transformative impact of music on social change throughout the year.

Accessibility Notice: We strive to make our events accessible. To request a disability accommodation and/or language services, please contact the Adult Programs Department at [email protected] or 617-859-2129. Please allow at least two weeks to arrange for accommodations.

Share this event

Add to:

05/22/2024 18:00:00 05/22/2024 19:30:00 America/New_York Lowell Lecture — Dr. John Edward Hasse: The Music of Civil Rights, from Strange Fruit to The Roots <p>Music has always been central to the African American quest for freedom. The Civil Rights struggle and its music provided some of America’s most powerful calls of hope, moral clarity, and equity... Rabb Lecture Hall: Boston Public Libbrary, Boston, MA 02116 false MM/DD/YYYY