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Bernice Johnson Reagon

Bernice Reagon

For more than a half-century Bernice Johnson Reagon has been a major cultural voice for freedom and justice. An African American woman's voice, a child of Southwest Georgia, a voice raised in song, born in the struggle against racism in America during the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s, she is a composer, songleader, scholar and producer.

Perhaps no individual today better illustrates the transformative power and instruction of traditional African American music and cultural history than Bernice Johnson Reagon, who has excelled equally in the realms of scholarship, composition, teaching and performance.

A woman of significant accomplishment, she has served as Distinguished Professor of History at American University, curator emerita at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History and as the founder and long-time artistic director of Sweet Honey In The Rock, a world-renowned a cappella ensemble of African-American women. Success in any one of these fields would be noteworthy, but she has combined music, a commitment to social justice and academic excellence, and has earned esteem in all three.

Music has been part of Dr. Reagon's life for as long as she can remember. She was one of eight children of a Baptist minister in rural Georgia. The family church had no piano, so she learned to create the uplifting spirit that is gospel music by singing, clapping her hands and stomping her feet.

In the 1960s, during the Civil Rights movement, the young scholarship student at Albany State College joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The college administration would not condone activist participation in marches and demonstrations and suspended her. Undeterred, she spent the next five years as an SNCC Freedom Singer, folklore field researcher and organizer of community-based cultural events. The experience set the template for the rest of her life.

Dr. Reagon studied society by confronting it. And she realized that singing was more than just entertainment, her inspired music more than just pleasing to the ear. Song was an integral part of her culture. Her ancestors had never learned to read and write, so the oral tradition was often the only way for African-Americans to pass on history through the generations. What better way than through the passionate eloquence of song?

She eventually resumed her formal education and earned a doctorate in American history. Dr. Reagon spent 20 years as a folklorist, scholar and curator at the Smithsonian. She was among the scholars who helped the national museum diversify its collections and exhibits.

She spent almost 15 years researching and five years in the production of the "Wade in the Water" project, a National Public Radio series on African-American sacred music of the 19th and 20th centuries that went on to win a prestigious Peabody Award. She has been a composer, consultant and performer for the award-winning PBS programs "Eyes on the Prize" and "We Shall Overcome."

Dr. Reagon's life's work has been centered on telling the story of African-American cultural power and traditions. She has used her unique gifts to broaden public understanding and appreciation of the African-American experience in the United States. As with our first Arts and Humanities recipient, the historian and filmmaker Henry Hampton, Bernice Johnson Reagon is being honored for her work that combines both the arts and the humanities.

Featured Items (See Related Items.)

Displaying 1-3 of 3 items.

Bernice Johnson Reagon : A Cappella : SATB : Sheet Music : Bernice Johnson Reagon

Bernice Johnson Reagon : A Cappella

Review: Dedicated to Civil Rights pioneer Ella Baker, "Ella's Song" by Sweet Honey in the Rock founder Bernice Johnson Reagon is a powerful song of courage and struggle. "we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes" Also from Bernice Johnson Reagon and Sweet Honey in the Rock, "We Are the Ones We Been Waiting For" written in tribute to the women of South Africa is a powerful and uplifting call for leadership and inner strength. It is especially appropriate as an audience participation number and recessional.

Songlist: We Are the Ones We Been Waiting For, Ella's Song

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8718b | Sheet Music $3.95 | SATB add item to cart

Bernice Johnson Reagon : A Cappella Arrangements : SATB : Sheet Music : Bernice Johnson Reagon

Bernice Johnson Reagon : A Cappella Arrangements

Review: Founded by Bernice Johnson Reagon, Sweet Honey in the Rock has been a vital and innovative presence in the music culture with songs and performances that nourish the soul and give courage to singers and listeners. The setting of Matthew 11:28-30"Come Unto Me" is a comforting solace for the weary, with layered vocal phrases and soothing harmonies. "I Remember, I Believe" combines elements of gospel, blues and spirituals into a rich vocal tapestry that reflects on the Hebrew tradition of "remembering" as the basis of faith. Mesmerizing and powerful! "Seven Principles" celebrates the traditions of Kwanzaa in a steady, purposeful style with optional percussion and adaptable vocal parts for any combination of voices.

Songlist: Come Unto Me, Seven Principles, I Remember, I Believe

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5730b | Sheet Music $5.95 | SATB add item to cart

Bernice Johnson Reagon : Give Your Hands To The Struggle : 00  1 CD : Bernice Johnson Reagon : SFW 40049

Bernice Johnson Reagon : Give Your Hands To The Struggle

Review: Bernie Johnson Reagon should be declared a National Treasure. Since the days of the Civil Rights Movement there has been no voice so strong in musically exhorting freedom, justice and equality. Bernice was contacted in 1975 about recording some of her songs for a new record company, Paredon Records, which was formed to create recordings by singers involved in freedom struggles around the world. Give Your Hands To Struggle was the first recording on which she had used multi-tracking. She found, when she reviewed the original master tapes from Paredon which had been archived at the Smithsonian, that they were cut versions of her original recordings. As her desire was to have the original full length songs presented, she reconstructed them for this reissue CD. This a window on the soul of the Civil Rights Movement by the founder of Sweet Honey In The Rock.

Songlist: We've Come A Long Way To Be Together, There's A New World Coming, Room In The Circle, Old Ship Of Zion, Why Did They Take Us Away?, In My Hands, Joan Little, They Are Falling All Around Me, Freedom In The Air, I Won't Crumble With You If You Fall, Had, Took, Misled, Give Your Hands To Struggle

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8522c | 1 CD $14.98 add item to cart

Related Items ( See Featured Items )

Displaying 1-2 of 2 items.

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GreedBernice Johnson ReagonGreedSheet Music (SATB divisi)MORE DETAILS 
Well Enough Said About That!Bernice Johnson ReagonAurora ChorusFull Circle 1 CDMORE DETAILS 

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