Odetta, Folk Music, and Social Activism (NOTE: panel discussion 4:30–6:30 p.m. in McCosh 10; concert at 8:30 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium)
April 9, 2009. Cosponsored by the Center for African American Studies, the Program in American Studies, the Program in Women and Gender, the Departments of History, Music, and Religion, the Humanities Council, the Centers for Human Values and the Study of Religion, the Lewis Center for the Performing Arts, the James Madison Program, Graduate School Office of Academic Affairs and Diversity, Princeton Theological Seminary, the Vice President for Campus Life, and the Office of Religious Life,
and the Spencer Trask Fund of University Public Lectures
The panel discussion will include Oscar Brand, Judith Casselberry, Olivia Greer, Matthew Frye Jacobson, Albert J. Raboteau, and Bernice Johnson Reagon. The topic, “Odetta, American Folk Music, and Social Activism,” will provide the opportunity for the panelists to consider the cultural traditions that influenced Odetta’s musical development, her significant contributions to the preservation of African American and American folk musics, and the broad scope of her musical influence.
The 8:30 p.m. concert, “A Tribute to Odetta” will feature Ruby Dee, Guy Davis, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Toshi Reagon, Sonia Sanchez, Lizz Wright, and others. Free ticket for concert required: See http://www.princeton.edu/africanamericanstudies/news/events/odetta.xml for ticket information.
Few performers did more than Odetta to preserve and promote American folk musics, and her influence on a wide range of musicians—from Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and Joan Amatrading to Cassandra Wilson, Jewel, and Tracy Chapman, among others—was unmatched. Her influence extended far beyond the realm of musical performers, however. When asked late in life about what music had been important to her for her activist work, Rosa Parks responded, “Essentially, all the songs of Odetta.” Parks is not the only participant in the Civil Rights Movement to have learned and drawn inspiration from Odetta’s music. Odetta’s political and cultural contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and to ongoing struggles for human rights are a major part of her legacy.