Protest Songs

We all know that “every action has an equal or greater reaction”, and as we take a look back at the past we see that anything significant enough to be spoken about 20, 30, 50, or even over 100 years later was more than likely a reaction that clearly stems either directly from a particular act or event.

The 1960s and 1970s are widely considered to be some of the most turbulent and radical times in history, so it should come as no surprise that the arts (music in particular) would reflect that. Wikipedia labels some particular eras of protest music under the following categories:

  1. 1940s- 1950s; The labor movement vs McCarthyism; Anti-Nuclear songs
  2. The 1960s: The Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and Peace and Revolution
  3. 1970s: The Vietnam War, Soul Music
  4. In the Twenty-First Century: The Iraq War and the Revival of the Protest Song

I think that  we should consider those basic differences but more importantly the fact that, like we spoke about in class, today it seems like the message needs to be much more blunt to be noticed as ‘radical’ in any way. I’m posting here a song from 2001 called “In All Rwanda’s Glory” by Rx Bandits – if you listen to the lyrics, its very clear that the author is frustrated with the government’s response to human rights issues and is referencing the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

To contrast that song’s clear message, I’m also linking Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in The USA”. The song was released in 1984, but I think it takes on more of a 1970’s message in that it was written in response to the Vietnam war, but contrary to popular belief it isn’t the patriotic song that people think it is, it’s actually  a song depicting the horrors that were faced by returning vets.


-C. Salama




What has changed?

Foner devotes a measly 2 paragraphs to “Human Rights.” During Clinton’s presidency human rights organizations gained influence throughout the world. Governments were now beginning to respond to crises in foreign nations both judicially and militarily. The idea that you were not to interfere in a sovereign nation’s internal affairs began to change with the growing Amnesty International organization, as well as the hundreds of other nongovernmental agencies that sought to protect human rights.

In modern day, we hear of reports of infractions upon human rights (although not frequently enough as news of Trump’s new escapades overshadow the suffering of peoples) in Syria, Lybia, Egypt, China, Sudan, and countless others. One begins to wonder, why do we get involved in conflicts so petty when, sadly, hundreds upon hundreds of undeniably justifiable reasons exist for aiding other countries in protecting humans. It seems that the influence of Human Rights organizations on foreign and even domestic policy has weakened unforgivably.

Below is a video regarding the UN conviction in the Rwandan Genocide case:


Below is a video on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: