Date of Award


Degree Type


University or Center

Clark Atlanta University(CAU)


School of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name



African-American Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Josephine Bradley

Second Advisor

Dr. K.B.S Barrow

Third Advisor

Dr. Timothy Askew


This study was an investigation of seven selected rhythm and blues black protest songs, from 1964 to 1975, and their relationship to black empowerment during the era of the Black Power Movement. The songs were analyzed using content analysis and revealed three expected themes of self/black identity, racial equity and self-determination. A fourth theme, social change, evolved during the study. The study focused on the political, cultural and economic ramifications, especially of black music, as a form of protest against a system that proved to be one of inequality, and prejudicial segregation in every aspect of the black life. The rhythm and Blues black protest songs were seen as efforts to empower the black community to take responsibility for its own survival. Of the seven artists who participated in the Black Power Movement, Nina Simone, Curtis Mayfield and Sam Cooke were the most prolific musical contributors to the protest movement of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in its efforts to deal with segregation. The four musicians wrote and performed music that was geared specially for transformations in social justice and to engage the American society, both black and white people, in substantial and lasting social change. The music of the other artists was instrumental in bringing Rhythm and Blues into a revolution. The musical revolutionaries were James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, and Stevie Wonder. The analysis, however, did not reveal whether or not the rhythm and blues black protest songs contributed to or led to black empowerment during the Civil Rights Black Power era.

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