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StMU History Media

It is a jaunty ragtime melody that fools listeners into briefly perceiving the number as a feel-good pop song, yet sustains its relevance by acknowledging the continued failure of a full realization of Black freedom a century after the Thirteenth Amendment.1 It took Nina Simone an hour to write “Mississippi Goddam,” which is a song based on the place-names of oppression. It was written immediately in the wake of the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, where four African-American girls, none older than fourteen, were murdered while at Sunday school.

In this song, she mocked government promises, stereotypical insults, and the continuing warning of public leaders to “Go Slow,” which refered to those who would drag their feet in pushing the nation toward racial equality. This song had no intention of being uplifting with lyrics like “we shall overcome.” Instead, it is a song about a movement. A woman who did not have much to begin with and small hopes for the American future, sings, ‘Oh but this whole country is full of lies… You’re all gonna die and die like flies.”
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