Interview: Zilphia Horton and the Power of Song

May 7, 2021

Credit Primary Source Nexus

Songs such as "We Shall Overcome" and "This Little Light of Mine" are essential elements of the soundtrack of the Civil Rights Movement. These and other songs became inextricably linked to social justice and labor movements across America. But that relationship wasn't automatic. It was developed in part at the Highlander Folk School.

Highlander's music director, classical musician Zilphia Horton, studied folk songs. She grasped the idea that music could represent a group's point of view and allow it to communicate with others. Horton's work helped make music an indelible part of protest in the United States.

Kim Ruehl is the author of a new book about Horton, called A Singing Army: Zilphia Horton and the Highlander Folk School. She spoke with WUOT's Brandon Hollingsworth.