Norfolk library celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with program on African-American spirituals, civil rights movement

NORFOLK, Va. — Norfolk’s Public Library’s Horace C. Downing branch honored the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a program on African-American spirituals and how the songs were intertwined with the civil rights movement.

North Carolina native, Calvin Earl led the program. He’s a nationally renowned musician known for his African-American spirituals, and his successful lobby of Congress to recognize them as a national treasure. He performed a selection of songs that date back to slavery and explained how these gospels became freedom songs during the civil rights moment in the 1950s and 1960s.

“I shall not be moved – talking about Dr. King,” he explained to the audience.

“When you look at your opponent, your aggressor in the face with love – you’re going to get it back, sooner or later.”

Audience members were encouraged to sing along.

Earl paid homage to one of the most tumultuous but critical movements in U.S. history: a decades-long struggle to end legalized racial discrimination.

The library’s youth associate Carolyn Miller said the performance is meant to demonstrate how African American spirituals transformed into songs with the civil rights movement, and how Dr. King’s message of equality Is still relevant today.

“We’re still having turmoil in the world,” Miller said.

“[Earl] explained how important the music was, even from the time of slavery on up to modern-day civil rights movement with Martin Luther King Jr.”

She said she hopes Dr. King’s legacy will continue to inspire future generations.

“I encourage the kids to have dreams and turn those dreams into something positive and something they can use and carry on in their legacy,” she said.

Author: Dana Smith
Published: 1:24 PM EST January 19, 2020
Updated: 7:47 PM EST January 19, 2020