Throwback Thursday: James Brown the Soul of the Civil Rights Movement

Throughout the Civil Rights Movement, we had people like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Malcolm X. But, what about the not so well-known people who contributed and were involved extensively with the Civil Rights Movement?


One of those men who helped usher in Civil Rights was soul-singer James Brown. Born in South Carolina in 1933, James Brown was very familiar with the social and racial injustices people of color suffered in America. Instead of letting what was going on around him bring him down, Brown decided to use those injustices to not only empower himself, but also his fellow black men.


During the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s, Brown’s music served as a message of black empowerment and it even helped keep the peace at times. After the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Brown hosted a free concert in Boston in hopes it would prevent riots in the streets. When the city was ready to riot during the concert, Brown pointed to a radio station and said, “I used to shine shoes outside that radio station. Now I own that radio station.” Brown continued to say, “That's black power.” Brown wanted to empower black people all across the nation by instead of complaining about their current situation, stand up and do something about it.


Brown also had an important role in the March Against Fear in 1966. Brown played shows at night during the march to help keep the peace. It was said sometime during the march all of the leaders of the march were arguing and Martin Luther King Jr. said, “You guys can stay here and argue if you want to, I'm going to go watch James Brown.”


It is amazing one of the most influential people of the Civil Rights Movement would rather listen to the words and music of James Brown than argue amongst the leaders of the march. Brown’s songs represented exactly what they were marching for, which was black empowerment, working together to achieve equal rights and to not give up hope.


James Brown’s music would expand past the Civil Rights Movement and influence a new era of musicians. His music would help usher in the empowering Funk music of the 1970s, gave life to the soul and disco music of the 1980s and even provided the beats for the rappers of the 1990s. He is also credited with influencing some of the greatest musicians ever such as, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Prince and Public Enemy. James Brown is Funk, Soul, Disco, Rap, Hip-Hop and R&B.


Written by Alex St. Peters