The Civil Rights Movement has been described as one of the greatest singing movements that this country has experienced. From "We Shall Overcome" to "This Little Light of Mine," music played a vital role in that historic struggle as both an inspirational rallying point and a means of spreading the message of equality and justice. From the Freedom Rides to the jails of Montgomery, AL, and from Parchman Prison all the way to Washington, D.C., both old and new songs spoke of the yearning for equal rights, the struggle, and the determination to win freedom. They engaged and energized the nonviolent civil disobedience movement led by Dr. King and others. Music was a huge part of the process both locally and nationally. In a presentation created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, folksinger Chris Vallillo performs pivotal selections from the music that inspired and sustained this landmark movement. Intermixed with the music, Vallillo presents first-hand accounts of the historic struggle and discusses the impact of music upon one of our nation’s most important social causes. His program is sponsored through a grant from Illinois Humanities.
Chris Vallillo is a nationally acclaimed singer/songwriter and folk musician who makes the people and places of “un-metropolitan” America come to life in song. Performing on six-string and bottleneck slide guitars and harmonica, Vallillo weaves original, contemporary and traditional songs and narratives into a compelling and entertaining portrait of the history and lifestyles of the Midwest. A recipient of a 1986 Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship Award for music composition, Vallillo conducted the Schuyler Arts Folk Music Project in 1987 to document the last of the pre-radio generation. These recordings were accepted into the American Folklife Collection at the Library of Congress. From 1990-1998 he served as the performing host and coproducer of the award-winning public radio performance series Rural Route 3. Other projects include a one-man show titled Abraham Lincoln in Song, and CD recordings such as The Last Day of Winter, Midwest Folklife Festival and Oh Freedom! Songs of the Civil Rights Movement.