civil rights musical era
March on Washington, August 28, 1963

Civil Rights Era

1950s – 1970

Civil Rights

The period of the late 1950s to the early 1970s saw Black Music move more into the mainstream. For the first time, large numbers of white teenagers began listening to original songs by Black artists, and not the watered-down white cover versions.
In 1961, Berry Gordy's Motown became the sound of young America. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
Black artists like Aretha Franklin, James Brown and Sam Cooke achieved crossover success.

There may be no better example of the mainstreaming of Black music than Ray Charles's 1962 album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, which ended the West Side Story soundtrack's 54-week run at number one on the Billboard charts.

Genres from this era

Rock

Rock

Rock loses the roll but gains amplitude and attitude.

Psychedelic Soul

Psychedelic Soul

Soul gets high.

Motown

Motown

The sound of young America masterminded by Berry Gordy.

Soul

Soul

Combines rhythm and blues and gospel music styles.

Cool & Post-Bop

Cool & Post-Bop

The term covers subgenres like hard bop and free jazz.

Notable Events

The Montgomery Bus Boycott

The Montgomery Bus Boycott

March 2, 1955

Claudette Colvin is arrested at age 15 for refusing to give up her seat to a white woman on a crowded bus helping to spark the Montgomery bus boycott.

The Nat King Cole Show Premieres

The Nat King Cole Show Premieres

September 17, 1957

Nat King Cole becomes the first African American to host his own national television program.

March on Washington

March on Washington

August 28, 1963

An estimated 250,000 people attended the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the largest gathering for civil rights of its time.

Lilies of The Field

Lilies of The Field

April 13, 1964

Sidney Poitier becomes the first Black man to win an Academy Award for Best Actor.

The Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

April 4, 1968

Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

Genre Map