Task Instructions: Research and Analyze Protest Songs
We shall overcome, we shall overcome,
We shall overcome someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome someday.
The simple, inspirational lyrics of “We Shall Overcome” have been sung by everyone from churchgoers to civil rights protesters to Southern labor activists to the United States president. The song is part of a long history of protest music that has helped to open eyes and awaken consciences since the earliest years of American life, and the tradition continues today.
Explore more on this topic
Open and read Examples of Protest Music From Different Times, Places and Genres, PDF (opens in a new widow).
For this performance task, you will analyze the power of the lyrics of protest songs and demonstrate your understanding of the forces of social change. What songs today have something to say about the past, whether because people are still struggling with the same issues, or because the lyrics seem symbolic or ironic when seen through the lens of the past?
Identify Your Task
Contemporary Music That Speaks to an Issue or Era in the Past:
Find a single particular song that you want to analyze.
You must include the following in your submission:
Complete song lyrics and name of artist
Screenshot or upload of your annotations to the song lyrics. You will annotate by underlining, highlighting or writing in the margins — reacting or responding to anything in the lyrics or in the music itself. You should also include the identification of rhetorical devices or other techniques the artist used to further his/her cause.
A paragraph description of the background of the story behind the lyrics. You may want to include the artist’s personal connection to the issue.
A reflection paragraph in which you analyze the effectiveness of the lyrics. In this paragraph you will not only share your own opinion on the effectiveness, but research the impact the song may or may not have had during the time period in which it was popular.
Your paragraphs should be a minimum of 10-detailed sentences and demonstrate Honors-level, insightful analysis.
Protest Music That Matters to You: Create an Annotated Playlist or Podcast
Identify at least five protest songs that matter to you, from a variety of eras.
With each song, you will provide the following:
Significant stanza– include an explanation of its significance
Explanation of the situation being protested
Explanation of the effectiveness of the piece in response to the protest
Your explanations should demonstrate Honors-level, insightful analysis
*NOTE: You may not use “We Shall Overcome”
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