Tag Archives: textile mill workers strike

How I’ve understood music’s role in activism

By William F. Danaher

This essay assesses the use of music in activism. Most of the research I’ve coauthored on music and activism has been from a historical perspective analyzing social movements. This poses special problems for the researcher who is seeking to assess the role of music in activism. When one is on the ground, direct observations can be made of what music is used and the effect it has on movement participants. If one attends a rally or participated in a march, the effects of the music can be directly seen and felt.  For instance, a friend and I once observed a rally for striking hotel workers in a major city. We marched several blocks through the streets to a gathering spot outside one of the city’s largest hotels. Popular music was playing from speakers. On stage, a speaker was shouting and chanting above the music, getting people to respond in unison. After the crowd was sufficiently excited, the speaker began to recount the problems the staff encountered while working in hotels. I looked around the crowd and saw some of my colleagues; to this day, when I see them, I think of this moment. So being there can elicit emotions in the short-term that can have long-term effects and give the researcher a greater sense of understanding. Continue reading


Filed under Art, Music, and Movements, Essay Dialogues