Mary D. Williams

Marchers and singers at the Poor People's Campaign, Washington DC. May-June 1968, Jimmy Collier is on the left, & Frederick Douglass Kirkpatrick on right.
Smithsonian Folkways / Smithsonian - Folkways - http://s.si.edu/2B1fejh

Music as a form of protest has a long history in the U.S. Activists have used songs to guide countless movements, from the abolition fight in the 1700s to anti-Vietnam War demonstrations and beyond.

An image of the gospel singer Mary D. Williams
Charlie Shelton-Ormond / WUNC

When Mary D. Williams was a kid growing up in Garner, North Carolina, she often visited her grandparents in Johnston County. She remembers passing a sign that said, “You are in the heart of Klan country” along the way. The sign was a visible example of the racism her grandparents endured in rural North Carolina.