Music of the Movement: A Lowcountry gospel singer explains the songs of the Civil Rights era

Christal Heyward says it was a hard time, and music kept people motivated to fight for change.

VIDEO: Music of the Movement: A Lowcountry gospel singer explains songs of Civil Rights era

Whether it was a meeting, a march or a protest, during the Civil Rights Movement, there was always music.

Negro spirituals and gospel songs were a common part of life for African American activists.

The music of the movement was a powerful, motivating force.

International gospel recording artist Christal Heyward grew up on Johns Island.

During Black History Month, she often performs songs of the Civil Rights era.

"'Don't Let Nobody Turn You Around" was a song that they sang and it really was to encourage themselves," Heyward said.

The words go, "Don't let nobody turn you around, turn you around, turn you around. Don't let nobody turn you around, keep on walking, keep on talking, marching up to freedom land."

"It was the songs of hope, songs of determination. Because it was a very hard time. It was a stressful time. So people used music, really to help them get through the day," Heyward said.

"Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child, such a long way from home," was another song commonly heard during that era.

Other songs reference the hope of their ancestors, who had endured slavery.

Heyward has a melodious, strong alto voice, and you feel pain and agony of the words of those songs.

"And before I'd be a slave, I'd be buried in my grave, and go home to live with my Lord and be free" Heyward sings.

If you'd like to hear and learn more about this type of music, Heyward is providing a free concert. She'll feature negro spirituals and Lowcountry funeral songs, and explain the history and style of the songs.

“Awakening of the Ancestors through Music,” happens Sunday, Feb. 23, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Wesley United Methodist Church, 2718 River Road, Johns Island.