Good Trouble: Music and Protest

This installment of Good Trouble continues a look at the strong connections between music and activism. Part 1 can be found here.

Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song by Gary Golio, art by Charlotte Riley-Webb
Library Catalog
Discover some of Billie Holiday’s music

Billie Holiday was no stranger to racism and prejudice, and when she was given Abel Meeropol’s song “Strange Fruit” – a song about lynchings and violence in the South – she embued it with her own pain. She did not know how the song would be received. She knew, as her mother warned her, that she could be killed for it. But she sang it and it became a powerful civil rights anthem. This book tells about a powerful woman and a powerful song, and how it came to be.


She Sang for the Mountains: The Story of Singer, Songwriter, Activist Jean Ritchie by Shannon Hitchcock, art by Sophie Page
Library Catalog

Folk singer and activist Jean Ritchie wrote and sang songs for the environment, protesting the destruction caused by coal mining – strip mining, deforestation and pollution.

Little People, BIG DREAMS: Bob Dylan by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, art by Conrad Roset
Library Catalog
Discover some of Bob Dylan’s music

One of the most influential songwriters of the 20th Century, shy Robert Zimmerman grew up to become Bob Dylan, a “voice of a generation” singing songs of protest, about the lives and trials of people across the country, and inspiring musicians, singers, and activists to this day.


Singing For Equality: Musicians of the Civil Rights Era by Diane C. Taylor
Library Catalog

A collection highlighting various musicians and their influences, along with the societal concerns in the world around them, that lead them to be civil rights activists. QR codes throughout bring you to youtube videos of songs and performances.

For more information

  • Mahalia (TV-PG), Lifetime film about the life of singer and activist Mahalia Jackson, on Kanopy. Mahlia Jackson is featured in Singing for Equality
  • Mavis! Gospel Music Legend and Civil Rights Activist Mavis Staples (TV-14), video documentary on Kanopy. Mavis Staples is featured in Singing for Equality
  • Denise Ho: Becoming the Song (NR), video documentary on Kanopy about the life of the openly gay Hong Kong singer and political and human rights activist

Why “Good Trouble”?

Among many important things, civil rights activist and Congressman John Lewis was famous for using the term “good trouble” when speaking on fighting against injustice in this country. This blog series will highlight books in our collection that might inspire you towards activism or provide you some ways to cause some “good trouble” fighting against societal injustices.

“Speak up, speak out, get in the way. Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”

“What can you do to get into good trouble? There is a light inside of you that will turn on when you get into good trouble. You will feel emboldened and freed. You will realize that unjust laws cannot stop you. These laws cannot stop the truth that is in your heart and soul.”

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

– John Lewis

Note: If you are interested in learning more about the life of  John Lewis, I highly recommend the March trilogy of graphic novels.
Categories: Authors & Books, Featured, Homepage Kids, Kids, and Library News.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *