A Change Is Gonna Come: WTJU Presents Sounds and Music of Civil Rights Era, Honors March on Washington

WTJU 91.1 FM is keeping the dream alive with a week of commemorative programming that honors the Civil Rights Movement.

Beginning Monday, the University’s public radio station will begin airing music and audio documentary in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, with a week of special civil rights programming planned to focus on the seminal event.

The University of Virginia’s Office of African-American Affairs, Office of Diversity and Equity and Office of Equal Opportunity Programs are supporting WTJU’s  commemorative programming. It will be presented in three formats: special music programming focused on specific topics, interviews and historical speeches and one-minute audio moments.

“WTJU’s Civil Rights Week programming is an important recognition of the important social changes brought about by the struggle for justice a half-century ago,” Nathan Moore, general manager of the radio station, said. “I’m so pleased that WTJU staff and volunteers are coming together to share music and stories that connect us to that moment in history.”

On weekdays from 9 to 10 a.m., WTJU’s “Soundboard” will air interviews with Virginians who experienced the Civil Rights Movement firsthand and were involved in the struggle. During the hour, WTJU will also air excerpts of historical speeches and interviews by civil rights leaders. “Soundboard” is WTJU’s educational discussion program about news, culture and community issues in the Charlottesville area.

In addition, the station will air one-minute audio moments every hour excerpted from the collected interviews and speeches.

“It took many thousands of people to make gains in the struggle for civil rights – including many people in Charlottesville and elsewhere in Virginia,” Moore said. “Their stories are so important to hear and to understand, so that we can connect to one another.”

On Wednesday during “Soundboard,” the station will air the entirety of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, 50 years to the day since he delivered the speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

The civil rights struggle inspired a wealth of tremendous and unforgettable music, including Billie Holiday’s mournful “Strange Fruit,” Sam Cooke’s poignant “A Change Is Gonna Come” and the reworked popular traditional song “We Shall Overcome,” a key anthem of the Civil Rights Movement derived from the early African-American gospel song, “I’ll Overcome Someday.”

“Music inspired those who struggled for justice during the civil rights era just as it continues to inspire us today,” Moore said.

A complete list of WTJU’s music specials during the week can be found here. Some of the highlights include:

  • “Anything Goes” presents anthems of the Civil Rights Movement that span the decades back to Louis Armstrong;
  • “Eclectic Woman” offers a range of responses from oppressed women of color in America expressed in song, from the anger of Nina Simone to the faith of Mahalia Jackson;
  • “Folk and Beyond” delves back to the country blues recordings that highlighted the plight of rural blacks in the ’20s and ’30s;
  • “Melodiya” explores racism, bigotry and miscegenation through the musicals “Porgy and Bess,” “West Side Story” and “Showboat; Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” and songs from the Civil War; and
  • “Jazzmania” conveys the freedom of jazz to create in the moment through the music of artists such as Sonny Rollins and Miles Davis. Just as the Civil Rights Movement was about experiencing personal freedom to vote and work, jazz music through improvisation expresses in musical language its own transformational freedom.
  • WTJU’s world music program, “Radio Tropicale,” will explore Ghanaian music with Pan-African themes on “W.E.B. Du Bois and Pan-Africanism.” Du Bois, the great African-American historian and civil rights activist, died in Ghana the day before the March on Washington; there was a moment of silence in his honor at the event.

On the program “Don’t Let Me Lose the Dream: African-American Visions and Commentary on the Pursuit of the Dream,” WTJU’s Dave Rogers – known as “Professor Bebop” – shares a musical commentary on the hopes and frustrations of the African-American community in realizing King’s dream, featuring music by artists such as Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke, the Staple Singers and the Last Poets. “WTJU’s week of civil rights programming, whether in words or music, serves as a reminder that injustices still remain,” Moore said. “The music and stories tell us that, in working together as a community, we can carry that spirit of the Civil Rights Movement forward to address social problems that still have not been resolved.”

WTJU-FM is a noncommercial educational radio station licensed by the Federal Communications Commission to the Rector and Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia. The station presents original, rich and diverse programming of music and other forms of expression free from the direct constraints of commercial interests, reflecting the broadest educational goals of the University.

Media Contact

Robert Hull

Media Relations Associate Office of University Communications