Mississippi Goddam Protest Song

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Mississippi Goddam Nina Simone has often been labelled the “artist of the Civil Rights Movement” because of the role her music played in the Civil Rights Movement. Simone sang many songs which spoke about racial issues, which were considered protest songs. One of Simone’s most famous protest songs is the song “Mississippi Goddam”. At the time of its release, “Mississippi Goddam” was a highly controversial song. “Mississippi Goddam” can be considered an effective protest song because it was popular, widely recognized and utilized, catchy, and conveys an important message. Despite the controversy surrounding it, Mississippi Goddam is still considered an important song for the Civil Rights Movement and served as an effective means of protest…show more content…
Radio play of the song was banned in many southern states. One radio station in South Carolina smashed their copy of the record and mailed the copy back to the record company. The expletive in the title (and lyrics) of the song were likely a factor that led to this pushback, especially in the religiously conservative south. However, it is also possible that much of the song’s controversy can be attributed to its lack of double meaning in its lyrics, which speak clearly and angrily about the racist ideologies of the post-war South. The use of double meaning in African American music, particularly spirituals, was very common. For example, many spirituals speak of finding freedom and being liberated from sin. To white listeners, these lyrics represent salvation in heaven and freedom from sin . However, to black listeners, the lyrics represent actual freedom- from slavery or from discrimination. Protest songs during the Civil Rights Movement also often utilized double meaning, but “Mississippi Goddam” broke away from this structure in the traditional sense. Instead of lyrics with multiple meanings, Simone made the meanings of her lyrics very explicit . The double meaning of the song lay in the tune, which was upbeat and resembled a traditional show tune, thereby making it accessible to a wide range of listeners but yet still with a clear message to convey. In a way, being straightforward…show more content…
Perhaps the song’s popularity among black audiences was due to the fact that black audiences could relate to the frustrations Simone expressed . The disparity between the song’s reception by white audiences and by black audiences further outlines its role as a protest song. “Mississippi Goddam” is a unique protest song in that the message conveyed in the song was written for black audiences more so than for white audiences. In the past, many protest songs used in the Civil Rights Movement were more easily accessible to white audiences, because they resembled well-known spirituals and their meaning was fairly ambiguous . However, Simone did not shroud the meaning of her song in any way, and was in fact very direct. This is also interesting to consider when evaluating the effectiveness of the song. Because the song was received differently by different demographics of audience, it may not be considered effective by some, but might be considered so by
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