Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bernice Johnson Reagon

Happy Birthday to Bernice Johnson Reagon (b. 1942), gifted singer and composer, dedicated civil rights activist, historian, author, and producer.
You may know her as founder of the a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, but Bernice Johnson Reagon is also a historian and chronicler of African American culture, and was a powerful voice, both literally and figuratively, in the Civil Rights Movement. With a small group of activists, including husband-to-be Cordell Reagon, Bernice Johnson cofounded the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) Freedom Singers in 1962. The Freedom Singers provided financial support for SNCC and moral and spiritual support at demonstrations and outside jailhouses. 

Reagon earned her doctorate in history from Howard University in 1975. She joined the Smithsonian Institution in 1974 as part of the Division of Performing Arts/African Diaspora Project. In 1983 she became curator of the National Museum of American History. There she created the Program in Black American Culture. Her many many projects include Folkways music collections and award-winning radio and television series—among them such seminal work as Wade in the Water: African American Sacred Music Traditions, Eyes on the Prize, and Africans in America. She holds numerous honors, including that of Curator Emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History and Professor Emeritus of History at American University.

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