Bernice Johnson Reagon
Bernice Johnson Reagon (born Bernice Johnson on October 4, 1942) is a song leader, composer, scholar, and social activist, who in the early 1960s was a founding member of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee’s (SNCC) Freedom Singers in the Albany Movement in Georgia. In 1973, she founded the all-black female a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock, based in Washington, D.C. Reagon, along with other members of the SNCC Freedom Singers, realized the power of collective singing to unify the disparate groups who began to work together in the 1964 Freedom Summer protests in the South.
“After a song,” Reagon recalled, “the differences between us were not so great. Somehow, making a song required an expression of that which was common to us all…. This music was like an instrument, like holding a tool in your hand.”The Albany Singing Movement became a vital catalyst for change through music in the early 1960s protests of the Civil Rights era. Reagon devoted her life to social justice through music via recordings, activism, community singing, and scholarship.She earned her Ph.D. from Howard University becoming a cultural historian, centered on the role of music, and is an emeritus faculty member in the History Department at The American University. She has also been a scholar-in-residence at Stanford and received an honorary doctorate of music from Berklee College of Music.