Say it Loud: I'm Black and I'm Proud

James Brown, 1968

What strikes you about how this song was performed? Spoken lyric, call and response.

What was happening with civil rights when this song was written? What had been accomplished up to that time? Schools and other public spaces were in the process of desegregation; voting rights had been restored and protections instated.

What did the Civil Rights Act of 1966 do? Why wasn't that enough for James Brown? What was he working for that the law couldn't provide? Cultural pride. Does it seem that Brown was satisfied with the progress made?

What happened in 1968 that sparked more action in the Civil Rights Movement? Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination. How was the younger activist's approach different from Dr. King's? Black Power, Black Pride, rather than nonviolence, passive resistance and civil disobedience. What happened in the summer of 1968?

Who is the audience for this song? Paraphrase the message of this song. What mood does it convey?

How is this song the same or different from "We Shall Overcome"?

How does "We Shall Overcome" reflect Martin Luther King Jr.'s philosophy? How does "Say it Loud…" reflect the later era?

Compare this song with the Motown songs of the same period. How do they differ? Motown purposely produced for both white and Black audiences, kept controversy out of songs.

"Say it Loud: I'm Black and I'm Proud" performed by James Brown on Say It Loud: I'm Black and I'm Proud, Universal Records, © 1969. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.


Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult this online source:

A button featuring James Brown.

James Brown (1928–2006) has a distinctive style that varies from wild and tireless to slow and emotional. His live recordings, such as this one, show off his style at its best, while his pre-recorded songs are more subdued. One can discern this difference by comparing "Say It Loud" with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and "It's a Man's World."

Brown began singing with R&B groups at a young age, and from 1960 almost every one of his singles made the charts. His album Live at the Apollo (1963) assured his stardom. According to some critics, it stands as the epitome of live recording. Brown remains an important influence on music today. R&B, disco, funk, and hip-hop are indebted to his distinctive style, including his vocal improvisations and groove-based structures. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, the same year he released “Living in America,” the theme song for the movie Rocky IV.

Look at high school yearbooks from 1963, the year of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Compare them with yearbooks from 1968 and 1972. What changes do you see in fashion that reflect the same kind of pride expressed in the song?



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