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Bernice Johnson Reagon


  Female      American      Musician

  Born : Oct 04, 1942  


About Author

Bernice Johnson Reagon (born October 4, 1942) is a singer, composer, scholar, and social activist, who founded the a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock in 1973.

The daughter of Baptist minister J.J. and Beatrice Johnson, Bernice was born and raised in southwest Georgia, where music was an integral part of life. She entered Albany State College in 1959 (since July 1996 Albany State University) where she began her study of music. She also became active in the local NAACP chapter and then the SNCC. After being expelled from Albany State because of an arrest for her civil rights activism, she attended Spelman College briefly. Later, she returned to Spelman to complete her undergraduate degree in 1970. She then received a Ford Foundation fellowship to study at Howard University, where she was awarded the Ph.D. degree in 1975.

Reagon was an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. She was a member of The Freedom Singers, organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) for which she was also a field secretary. The Freedom Singers were organized by Cordell Reagon in 1962. This group was the first to travel nationally. The singers realized that singing helped provide an outlet for protestors when dealing with issues like mobs and police brutality. Thanks to her roles with SNCC and the Freedom Singers she became a very respected song leader during the Civil Rights Movement. She had people like James Forman say-"I remember seeing you lift your beautiful black head, stand squarely on your feet, your lips trembling as the melodious words 'Over my head, I see freedom in the air' came forth with an urgency and a pain that brought out a sense of intense renewal and commitment of liberation. And when the call came to protest the jailings, you were up front. You led the line. Your feet hit the dirty pavement with a sureness of direction. You walked proudly onward singing 'this little light of mine, 'and the people echoed, 'shine, shine, shine.'"..


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