Freedom Songs with Imani Uzuri

Happy summer friends! I have been learning a lot and finding new resources in the past few weeks, and I just couldn’t wait until a new school year to share some of the things I’m learning with you! There are these amazing Musical Explorers lessons from Carnegie Hall that I wasn’t familiar with before, and I wanted to share one of them with you today. You can go to the link above to see exactly where all of this came from, but I’ve simplified it into a lesson you can do at home right here.

First, let’s meet Imani Uzuri:

Read about Imani Uzuri here, too!  Let’s learn her medley of 3 freedom songs:

Here are the rest of the lyrics to the 3 freedom songs Imani Uzuri used for the medley. Which lyrics did she use from each? Try singing the rest of the songs next.

You can create your own freedom song medley! Think about how Imani Uzuri created hers first. Look at the parts she used from each song. How did she use each part? How are these 3 songs similar? Why do they work well together? Choose your favorite part of each song-that could be just one line, a verse, whatever you want. Once you’ve chosen a favorite part for each song, consider how they should go together-what part makes sense to come first, second, third? Keep it simple and repeat the parts you have chosen more than once to combine them into your own freedom song. If you want to share your freedom song with me, you can email me a video of you singing it, or post it on ClassDojo!


4th and 5th graders, keep the learning going: Read this quick paragraph about Freedom singers from the 1960s. Do you recognize anyone? The 1960s happened more than 50 years ago, but continue to have an impact today. Can you find an older family member, friend of the family, or community member who remembers that time?

If you can, ask them about their memories. Were they in the United States? Did they take part in the Civil Rights Movement or in other protests that were happening? You can also ask your parents if they know any family stories about the 1960s.

Ask your family members what music from the 1960s they like and listen to. Listen to some of their favorite songs with them. Which songs do you like, and why?

This Land was Made For You and Me!

I know there have been a lot of things happening in the world right now, and sometimes it can be hard for kids to understand all of it. It’s often hard for adults to understand all of it too, so it’s ok if you feel overwhelmed. I wanted to start today by sharing a video my friend and fellow educator Mrs. Fritz made for her students. She teaches 1st grade, but I think that this video can help all of us as we try to process our feelings about the big things happening in our country.




Now, since this is a music blog after all, let’s learn to sing a protest song that has been around since the 1940s!

You may not even think of this one as a protest song, but the lyrics are all about making a country that belongs to all of us, and it was even used during the Civil Rights movement. Here is the original version of “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie.


Woody Guthrie’s America had a lot of problems all at once, and it’s easy to think he must’ve felt a lot like many of us do right now. During Woody Guthrie’s life, there was a big problem in the Great Plains and the Midwest where the wasn’t enough rain for a long time. The soil on the ground blew around in huge dust clouds, destroying people’s homes and endangering their lives. These people tried to move away to California, but they were greeted at the California border by police officers who told them to go away. Meanwhile, in the South, police officers were enforcing unfair Jim Crow laws that kept black and brown people from sharing schools, bathrooms, water fountains, and everything else with white people. On top of all of that, America’s economy was in a Great Depression, which means there weren’t enough jobs for people, and many people were hungry and homeless. Woody Guthrie wrote this song as he traveled around the country seeing all of these big problems.

Woody Guthrie’s friend Pete Seeger brought the song to the Civil Rights Movement. He met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and sang some protest songs for him. Dr. King was really struck by the song “We Shall Overcome,” which you can learn all about in my previous post on the song here! Pete Seeger joined Dr. King’s marches, and sang songs like this one to try to help share a message of fairness for everyone. Here’s Pete Seeger singing the song at the “We Are One” concert, celebrating President Obama’s inauguration as our first black president.


In music class, I like to do a comparing and contrasting listening activity about different versions of this song. Can you make a Venn diagram to compare one of the versions above with one of my favorite versions which I’ve posted below? What things are the same? What’s different? (think about the lyrics, the instruments, the style of the music, who is singing, etc.)

Here’s the Sharon Jones version we used on the Venn Diagrams above…it’s a personal favorite of mine and the students can never hold still when we hear it!