Sit-in at a lunch counter in Greensboro, NC.
The album cover of We Insist! was an explicit reference to the Greensboro protests. We Insist! drew analogies between social and political freedom and the aesthetic freedom of its music.
The Max Roach Quintet performing “Driva Man,” one of the numbers on We Insist!, about the abuses of slavery. Note Abbey Lincoln’s Afrocentric dress and natural hair style, signs of resistance in the early 1960s.
Before her collaboration with Max Roach, Lincoln had been a nightclub “girl singer” in New York and Hollywood, marketed as much for her looks as for her musicianship.
Read “The Photos that Lifted Up the Black Is Beautiful Movement,” a lovely photo essay about 1960s resistance to white standards in the beauty and fashion industries.
Some black radicals completely rejected the idea that music could be revolutionary. In his poem “Hipping the Hip,” Ramón Durem wrote:
Blues — is a tear
bop — a fear
There’s no place to hide
in a horn
Durem also makes a musical reference to the Mau Mau uprising — the armed revolt in the 1950s that drove the British out of Kenya and led to that nation’s independence, comparing Kenyan tribal music favorably to the widely-ranging music of bebop:
Mau Mau only got a five-tone scale
but when it comes to Freedom, Jim —
Mau Mau songs sung at a monument for Kenyan rebel leader Dedan Kimathi: