Themes and Eras

Voices Across Time is organized by historical eras derived from the National History Standards and themes adapted from the National Social Studies Standards.  The themes are:

United/Divided: Politics, civil rights, diversity

This theme explores the great American paradox E Pluribus Unum: The many consequences of being a nation of diverse people with diverse backgrounds and opinions. Music has allowed even the most disenfranchised to speak up and be heard--that peaceful dissension that is at the heart of the democratic process. This theme will introduce songs of politics, suffrage, civil rights, and cultural pride and conflict.

War and Peace: Propaganda, patriotism, protest

During wartime, songs become weapons, rallying cries, and emotional support. As documents of patriotism, propaganda, and protest, they invite us to ask questions like: "What is peace?" "What is war?" "Why is the nation fighting?" "What am I fighting for?" "What is it like to be a soldier?" "How does it feel back home?"

Work: Labor, pride, conflict

Contrary to popular notions, the arts are not luxuries reserved for affluent times and people. Songs of work are perfect examples of music's role in helping people at all economic levels cope with hard labor, inhumane conditions, and unfair practices. Work songs like sea chanteys kept crews working together to a beat. Field hollers allowed communication between farm workers. Ballads memorialized heroes, decried working conditions, or expressed pride. Union songs recruited members to fight those conditions.

Home: Family, school, leisure

Everyday life has had a musical soundtrack from the days of singing away long winter evenings to today's world of Ipods ® and Muzak®. Songs can reveal much about relationships and values in the home and the drudgery of keeping them. Children learned lessons both moral and academic through songs. And everyone has used music to kick back and have a bit of fun! We put our ears to the doors that most textbooks keep closed to find out more about the human-ness of our ancestors.

Moving Along: Migration and transportation

Americans move! Everyone's ancestors undertook great voyages--either voluntarily or by force--to get here and we haven't stopped since. We listen to the songs of migration--from nation to nation, east to west, south to north (and back again!), farm to city, city to suburbs--to hear the reason for those moves. Then we listen to the songs of transportation and discover how technology--wagons, keelboats, steamboats, trains, automobiles, and planes--literally drives these movements over land and water.

Faith and Ideals: Religion, altruism, ethics, love of country

Nothing reveals what people believe quite as effectively as the songs they sing. Music is one of the primary ways people pass values from generation to generation. We look at songs of religious faith, devotion to country, ethical convictions, and altruistic ideas to try to understand the diverse beliefs and values that motivate Americans. What threads of shared beliefs can we find? In what ways are we different.


A helpful way to visualize this structure is through a grid combining eras and themes. This matrix populated by songs from each unit serves as a finding aid to help educators locate material that helps them meet their instructional objectives:



United/  Divided

War & Peace



Moving    Along

Faith & Ideals

Worlds   meeting
To 1763

Once More Our God Vouchsafe to Shine

Death of General Wolfe

Tobacco's But an Indian Weed

Welcome, Welcome Brother Debtor

Round the Corner, Sally and Round the Corn, Sally

Children in the Woods

New England's Annoyances

Friendly Invitation to a New Plantation

En roulant ma boule

La courte paille


God Save the King

Old Hundred

Let Us Break Bread Together

New Nation

Rights of a Woman


Free America

The Liberty Song

Desponding Negro

Jefferson & Liberty

Ballad of the Tea Party

Yankee Doodle

The Rebels

The Old Woman Taught Wisdom

The Rolling Stone

Address to the Ladies

Johnny's Gone for a Soldier

Michael Row the Boat Ashore

Hail Columbia

President's March

Wayfaring Stranger

United/   Divided

War & Peace



Moving     Along

Faith & Ideals

Expansion & Reform

Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child

Darling Nelly Gray

Get Off the Track

The Hunters of Kentucky

Star-Spangled Banner

Trail of Tears Song

Greenland Whale Fishery

Song of the Shirt

Oh Dat Low Bridge

Hard Times Come Again No More

Trail of Tears


Blue Juniata

Sweet Betsy from Pike

Glendy Burk

Go Down Moses

Simple Gifts

Amazing Grace

America (My Country Tis of Thee)

Roll, Jordan, Roll

Follow the Drinkin' Gourd

Civil War & Reconstruction 1850-1877

John Brown’s Body


No More Auction Block for Me (Many Thousand Gone)

I’m a Good Old Rebel

Marching Through Georgia

Bonnie Blue Flag

We’re Coming, Father Abraham

Goober Peas

Just Before the Battle, Mother

Vacant Chair

Song of the Southern Volunteers

When Johnny Comes Marching Home

Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye

Deep River

Battle Hymn of the Republic

United/   Divided

War & Peace



Moving     Along

Faith & Ideals

Development of the Industrial U.S.

No Irish Need Apply

The New America

Going to the Polls

Before I'd Be a Slave

Stars and Stripes Forever

Break the News to Mother

John Henry

Drill Ye Terriers Drill

The Farmer is the Man

Mule Skinner Blues


Father's a Drunkard and Mother is Dead

The Bowery

Home on the Range

Crossing the Grand Sierras

I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen

Thousands Are Sailing to Amerikay

Carry Me Back to Old Virginny

America the Beautiful

Onward Christian Soldiers

Sun Dance Song

The Emergence of Modern America

Alcoholic Blues

Woman's Doxology

What Did I Do to Be So Black and Blue

El Corrido de Gregorio Cortez

The Argentines, the Portuguese, and the Greeks

All Coons Look Alike to Me

The Japanese Sandman

So Long! Oo-Long (How Long You Gonna Be Gone?)

I'm an Indian

Over There

I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier

Solidarity Forever

Boll Weevil Song

How You Gonna Keep Him Down on the Farm

Ain't We Got Fun

Hello Ma Baby

St. Louis Blues

Down in Poverty Row

Ching-a-ling's Jazz Bazaar

Chinatown, My Chinatown


Henry's Made a Lady Out of Lizzie

Lindbergh (the Eagle of the USA)

He Lies in the American Land

Cancion mixteca

We'll Understand It Better By and By

You're a Grand Old Flag

Can the Circle Be Unbroken

I'll Overcome Some Day

Lift Every Voice and Sing

United/   Divided

War & Peace



Moving     Along

Faith & Ideals

The Great Depression and World War II

Happy Days Are Here Again

Strange Fruit

Boll Weevil Song

Which Side Are You On?

I'm Marching Down Freedom's Road

Goodbye, Mama (I'm Off to Yokohama)

Der Fuhrer's Face

Gee But I Wanna Go Home

A Slip of the Lip

Corrido Pensilvanio

Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?

El Deportado

Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out

Rosie the Riveter

Seven Cent Cotton, Forty Cent Meat

Roll On Columbia

Cancion Mexicana

Hobo's Lullaby

Duration Blues

Do, Re, Mi

Chattanooga Choo-Choo

El Corrido de Texas

Crossroad Blues

Take the A Train

I Feel Like Going Home

God Bless America

You'll Never Walk Alone

Whistle While You Work

Postwar United States
1945 to 1968

We Shall Overcome


The Times They Are A-Changin'

Say It Loud I'm Black & Proud

Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn me Around

Mississippi Goddamn

A Change is Gonna Come

People Get Ready

Now that the Buffalo's Gone

Japanese Rumba

The Sukiyaki Song

Okie From Muskogee

Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag

Sixteen Tons

Get a Job

Los pachucos


Little Boxes

Los Chucos suaves

Wives and Lovers

In America (West Side Story)

I Get Around

(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66

Special Delivery Blues

Call it Stormy Monday

This Land is Your Land

Take My Hand Precious Lord

Keep On Pushing

What a Wonderful World

Get Together

If I Had a Hammer

United/   Divided

War & Peace



Moving     Along

Faith & Ideals

Changing America 1970-2000

I Am Woman

Gangsta's Paradise

Chocolate City

A.I.M. Song

Yellow Pearl

What's Going On

Self Destruction

Born in the USA




If We Must Die

In America

Workin’  9 to 5


El Corrido de Cesar Chavez

Contrabando y traicion

El Picket Sign

Big Yellow Taxi

Living for the City

At Seventeen

Dear Mama

Mother Earth

Menominee Vietnam Veterans Song


Love Child

Don't Let the Joneses Get You Down

To Be Young, Gifted, and Black

Ladies First

I Was Born This Way

Oye mi Canto

The Message

Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)

Small Town

Mountains 'O Things

Information Undertow


Traffic Jam




We Are the World

The Greatest Love of All

Man in the Mirror

Fight the Power

God Bless the USA

From a Distance

The New Millenium

The Corner

Silence is a Weapon

Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning

Have You Forgotten?

Travelin Soldier

Light Up Ya Lighter


War Song

Workin’  America First

Words I Never Said

Rent Money



Learn Chinese

The APL Song

Heroes of Earth

Black Happiness

Who I Am

Same Love

Mi Gente

3rd Base, Dodger Stadium

Where You From

Monsters Calling Home

Descendants of Dragons


Somos mas Americanos

Who Discovered America

American Land

Electric Intertribal

Where is the Love

Waiting on the World to Change

I Smile

No Rest for the Weary



More topics under Teacher's Guide:

Unit walkthrough:

Timeline & Table of Contents

Background essay & planning  


Song pages


1. Worlds Meeting through 1760

2. New Nation, 1760-1820

3. Expansion & Reform, 1800-1860

4. Civil War & Reconstruction, 1860-1876

5. Development of Industrial

    U.S., 1870-1900

6. Emergence of Modern U.S., 1900-1929

7. Great Depression & WW II, 1930-1945

8. Post-War U.S, .1946-1973

9. Changing America, 1974 -2000

10. The New Millennium


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