February 2nd - Lest We Forget, Vol. 1: Movement Soul

Today we're moving from yesterday's audio essays to an album of audio collage. Assembled from clips of speeches, rallies, sermons, songs and interviews, Lest We Forget Vol. 1 is the first of a three-volume collection of albums.

There is no information in the liner notes about the collection of the audio or the impetus behind its assembly, although there are wonderfully detailed notes on who is speaking at any moment in the album. However, I was able to locate the obituary of the artist, Moses Moon. The proprietor of a folk club in Chicago, Moon became increasingly interested in recording the civil rights movement, eventually amassing some one hundred and forty four tapes of interviews, voter registration drives, church services, etc., recorded from multiple microphones on a ninety-pound portable tape recorder. From these tapes - which he deeded to the Library of Congress - he cut together Lest We Forget.

And it is an incredible resource! Civil Rights activists Willie Peacock, James Forman, Fannie Lou Hamer and now-Congressman John Lewis all make appearances - but even more amazing are the uncredited voices. A preacher speaks to his congregation about his pending court date; a woman describes the brutal dispersal of a "pray-in"; a man - arrested for registering to vote - relates the punishing conditions inside the Mississippi State Penitentiary.

Not to diminish the great accomplishments of the luminaries of the civil rights movement, but I think we tend to forget that the greatest force that the movement mustered was just ordinary black people, with jobs and families, with the extraordinary bravery to take on an entire cultural and legal system set up against them. At one point Fannie Lou Hamer talks about her trial after being beaten by police in Winona, Mississippi, and how the same police officers who had attacked her were now on the jury. Imagine the bravery and fortitude to undergo that and walk away with any belief in progress, in the rule of law? 

Click here to read liner notes and purchase this album from Smithsonian Folkways