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PHOTO ESSAY

Influential Black Women

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Odetta, 1964

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

The revival of folk music in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s was intrinsically linked to political movements towards racial equality. Folk music influenced a generation, and for many Odetta was the source of that inspiration. Her strong voice, natural appearance, and strong political messages influenced a generation of people ranging from Rosa Parks to Bob Dylan to Janis Joplin—and thousands of other folk music enthusiasts and activists. Odetta performed at many of the major civil rights events and protests. In 1963 she solidified her place as the musical voice of the Civil Rights Movement when she sang "O Freedom" at the March on Washington. Odetta passed away in December of 2008, but her music and legacy continue to inspire activists.

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