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From Slavery to Freedom


Keith M. Rodgers

The College of Osteopathic Medicine kicked off its eleventh annual Slavery to Freedom: An American Odyssey on Thursday, February 3rd at 5:00pm. Leading off this series was Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon who has been a major cultural voice for freedom and justice for nearly 50 years. Dr. Reagon: songstress, composer musician, song talker scholar, performer, historian, teacher, producer, director, author, public speaker and activist regaled the audience with her strong voice and entertaining anecdotes of the civil rights movement, and is probably best know by lay people for founding the internationally renowned African American women’s ensembe ‘Swee Honey in the Rock’.

“These days, I come as ‘song talker,’ one who balances talk and song in the creation of live performance conversation with those who gather within the sound of my voice.

As a student leader and activist in the Albany Movement, I sang and stood in the sound of the congregational singing of the freedom songs charging the air we breathed. For the first time, I understood how the singing not only pulled us together, but became our articulate collective testimony to all who stood within the sound.”

Bernice Johnson Reagon has been a major cultural voice for freedom and justice and Dr. Johnson typifies an African American woman’s voice as 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,.

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.

The series continues Thursday, February 10 at 5:00pm., at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center, Auditorim with noted author and historian Taylor Branch, and concludes on Thursday, February 17 at 5:00pm., with Civil rights and rural development activist Shirley Sherrod.

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