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Bernice Johnson Reagon

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Information about Bernice Johnson Reagon

Profile image of Bernice Johnson Reagon

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Curator
Music Composer
History Professor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Raspberry, Teal
Favorite Food:
Okra, Watermelon, Greens
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
10/4/1942
Birth Location:
Albany, Georgia

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Curator
Music Composer
History Professor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Raspberry, Teal
Favorite Food:
Okra, Watermelon, Greens
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
10/4/1942
Birth Location:
Albany
See how Bernice Johnson Reagon is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Born on October 4, 1942, Bernice Johnson Reagon grew up in Albany, Georgia, where she became involved in the civil rights movement. As a student at Albany State College in 1961, Reagon was arrested for participating in a SNCC demonstration. She spent the night in jail singing songs and after her arrest joined the SNCC Freedom Singers to use music as a tool for civic action. Reagon earned her B.A. in history from Spelman College in 1970. In 1973, she founded Sweet Honey in the Rock, an award-winning a cappella quintet that performs traditional African and African American music. Reagon received her doctorate in U.S. history, with a concentration in African American oral history, from Howard University in 1975.

Reagon composed and produced much of the Sweet Honey in the Rock's renowned repertoire. She has also composed music for several film projects, including the Emmy-winning We Shall Overcome. From 1974 to 1993, Reagon worked as a folklorist, program director and curator for the Smithsonian Institute and helped develop the Peabody Award-winning radio program Wade in the Water: African American Sacred Music Traditions for the Smithsonian and National Public Radio. She has been curator emeritus at the Smithsonian since 1993.

Reagon also enjoyed a distinguished career as a professor of history at the American University from 1993 to 2002. Her writings on African American music and the songs of the civil rights movement have been published in a number of journals and books. Bernice Johnson Reagon was the William and Camille Cosby Endowed Professor in the Fine Arts at her alma mater, Spelman College, for the 2002-2003 academic year.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Bernice Reagon interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Bernice Reagon's favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Bernice Reagon gives her parents' names and birthdates
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Bernice Reagon recalls her mother's family
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Bernice Reagon describes her father's family
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Bernice Reagon remembers her parents
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Bernice Reagon philosophizes on perception and meaning
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Bernice Reagon lists the families in her community
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Bernice Reagon reflects on sharecropping and her parents' education
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Bernice Reagon discusses the value of storytelling in the black community
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Bernice Reagon shares memories of her childhood and early education
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Bernice Reagon recalls the segregation and discrimination growing up in Georgia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Bernice Reagon compares singing spirituals in school to singing them in church
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Bernice Reagon describes her teachers
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Bernice Reagon remembers her parents' strictness
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Bernice Reagon relates her school experiences
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Bernice Reagon details her singing background as a child
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Bernice Reagon discusses cultures for whom singing is a key component
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Bernice Reagon recalls her early career aspirations
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Bernice Reagon relates why she went to Albany State College
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Bernice Reagon details getting arrested and expelled for her involvement in Civil Rights
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Bernice Reagon recounts her experience at Spelman
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Bernice Reagon remembers her involvement in the Freedom Singers
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Bernice Reagon reflects on the murder of three Civil Rights workers in Neshoba County, Mississippi
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Bernice Reagon illustrates the crucial role of music in the Civil Rights Movement
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Bernice Reagon describes her husband and early years of marriage
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Bernice Reagon explains how freedom music seeped into popular culture
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Bernice Reagon reflects on the history and significance of "We Shall Overcome"
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Bernice Reagon recalls organizing cultural activities and the first integrated concerts in the South
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Slating of Bernice Reagon interview, part 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Bernice Reagon describes her life in 1960s Atlanta
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Bernice Reagon details the founding of the Harambee Singers
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Bernice Reagon remembers learning that Black is Beautiful (part 1)
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Bernice Reagon remembers realizing that Black is Beautiful (part 2)
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Bernice Reagon reflects on her life in Washington D.C.
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Bernice recalls her experiences at Howard University
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Bernice Reagon remembers her professors at Howard University
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Bernice Reagon reflects on her graduate studies of oral history
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Bernice Reagon describes insight gained through the study of black history
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Bernice Reagon illustrates how songs are cultural artifacts that document history
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Bernice Reagon explains how oral history taught what was absent in history books
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Bernice Reagon discusses the importance of oral history as a challenge to written history
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Bernice Reagon discusses Emancipation
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Bernice Reagon recalls her successes with the Smithsonian
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Bernice Reagon details the founding and trajectory of 'Sweet Honey in the Rock'
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Bernice Reagon reflects on how Sweet Honey in the Rock celebrates womanhood through dress and costume
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Bernice Reagon enjoys being a role model
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Bernice Reagon expresses her opinion of rap
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Bernice Reagon recounts the highlights of working with Sweet Honey in the Rock
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Bernice Reagon remembers her work under a MacArthur Foundation grant
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Bernice Reagon discusses her concerns for the black community
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Bernice Reagon considers her legacy