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In 2015, musician and non-profit director Isaías Gamboa and filmmaker Lee Butler sued The Richmond Organization (TRO) and its offshoot Ludlow Music over their copyright to the anthem of the civil rights movement, “We Shall Overcome.” The copyright had initially been registered in 1960 and named four white folksingers: Guy Carawan, Frank Hamilton, Zilphia Horton, and Pete Seeger. Suspicious of the white names on the copyright, Gamboa wanted to liberate the song from what appeared to be corporate control. The suit was ultimately successful and the song was placed in the public domain. However, while Gamboa and Butler celebrated their win in a Manhattan court, activists across the South took it as a loss. Although overseen by TRO and Ludlow, the copyright's royalties had long gone to the Highlander Research and Education Center (formerly The Highlander Folk School), a pre-eminent and decades-old grassroots organizing hub best known for its work with such icons as Rosa Parks, Septima Clark, and Dr. Martin Luther King. The money was housed there in the We Shall Overcome Fund, which had been created by cultural workers of the civil rights movement in collaboration with those named on the copyright to facilitate the redistribution of royalties to Black artist-activists across the South. Far from facilitating theft, the copyright had strategically scaffolded Black-led community organizing for nearly 60 years. This article traces the history and work of this remarkable effort to turn the civil rights movement's anthem into its most lasting cultural tool.
The Century Club of California (CCC), founded in 1888, was San Francisco's most prestigious women's club in the early twentieth century. The club's aim was to promote intellectual growth and amplify female voices to help women enter the public domain with confidence. Weekly presentations featured renowned public figures and women who had achieved success in traditionally male fields. Rather than raising money for benevolent organizations, the CCC aimed to effect foundational social changes by informing women of the latest developments in all fields, thus empowering them to engage in political and social activism. Music played a critical role in furthering this ambitious goal; it had its own programming committee, which operated on an equal basis with those devoted to art, science, education, and current events. This article, based on the club's extensive collection of unpublished materials, looks at the CCC's first three decades, when the club promoted “the art of forceful speech” through modeling of successful women, providing opportunities for members to project their musical voices, elucidating new musical research, and supporting organizations such as the all-female Saturday Morning Orchestra. The CCC's activities underscore the significant role female musicians played in advancing the New Woman movement of the time.
Amid nationwide discussion on the importance of accident prevention and safety education, Tin Pan Alley songwriters Irving Caesar and Gerald Marks wrote and advertised Sing a Song of Safety (1937), a book of songs that taught children domestic, playtime, and traffic safety lessons, illustrated by Rose O'Neill. Caesar secured a recurring guest segment to perform the songs on the variety program The Royal Gelatin Hour in 1938. Focusing on Caesar's segments, this article examines the role of children's music on the radio in the 1930s. Placing these songs in their historical context, I show how they both portray and challenge citizenship and community roles with regard to age, gender, and race. After unpacking the context of The Royal Gelatin Hour and the relationship between protection and innocence in safety education, I describe the portrayal of parenting in the segments. Taking one of Caesar's segments as a case study, I examine boyhood and race in the program's adaption of the safety patrol. By investigating the role of children and the construction of childhood in these initiatives, this paper addresses the relationship between children and media and early uses of media as a surrogate for parenting. It examines the use of popular culture in public safety efforts, the synergy of and tensions between service and profit, and the use of music to convey societal duties in everyday life as they shift throughout the life course.
Advertisements for audio equipment in midcentury magazines, such as High Fidelity and HiFi Review, shaped the constructions that determined how masculinity was modeled, embodied, and fashioned in the United States at midcentury. A hi-fi setup was a material expression of self and masculinity that could be ever tweaked, refashioned, and adjusted. Tonearms, however, were (and still are) delicate, troublesome, and, when improperly calibrated, capable of destroying record grooves. Manufacturers, advertisers, and magazine contributors who strategically gendered other technologies as masculine—such as amplifiers and speakers—struggled to imbue tonearms with the same virility, toughness, and power. If the hi-fi system served as an embodied simulacrum of the masculine self, then the tonearm was a necessary and omni-present symbolic point of gendered questioning in masculine identity formation. In this article, I argue that the tonearm is a site of fluidity and ambiguity within a modular masculine system, and I demonstrate that the discourses around tonearms in 1950s hi-fi magazines provide an alternative window into discussions of gender and sexuality in United States print culture. Through image analysis and close reading of advertisements and equipment reviews, I decentralize hegemonic masculinity and make room for readings that draw upon feminist and queer theory. More broadly, I submit that mid-twentieth-century hi-fi discourses do not produce a single brand of anxiously conforming maleness, but rather an array of modular masculinities.