Sunday, July 13, 2014

Examples Of Black Civil Rights Chants & Black Power Chants

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides examples of Black (African American) civil rights chants that I recall from the 1960s and examples of Black (African American) Nationalist chants that I recall from the late 1960s. In addition, some Black protest chants from the Jena Six marches and rallies in 2007 that I gleaned from the Internet are also included in this post.

This post is part of an ongoing pancocojams series on protest chants. Click and for two other posts in this series.

The content of this post is presented for historical and cultural purposes.

Thanks to all those who have worked and those who are now working for equality and justice for all.

I compiled this list for this Mudcat discussion thread that I started in September 2007: "African American Protest Slogans & Songs".

Read that discussion thread for my explanations of most of these chants. That Mudcat thread also includes comments about African American civil rights/protest songs and chants, including my thoughts and others' thoughts about why group singing is no longer a part of African American protest marches any more.

These chants are presented by decades.

Mid 1960s

"Freedom Now!"

Caller- "What do we want?"
Group Response- "Freedom!"
Caller- "When do we want it?"
Group Response- "Now!"

Late 1960s/ 1970s
"Black Power!

Caller-"Say it loud!"
Group Response- "I'm Black And I'm Proud"

Response- "Black Powa"
"Ungawa" ("umgawa") is a word that was created for Tarzan movies as a way for Tarzan to communicate with animals and with Black "natives". The word could mean anything the screen writers wanted it to.*

Transcript from

Click to read that my transcription of that video.

In the late 1960s & early 1970s, afro-centric African Americans took hold of that word and included it in a rhyme that both celebrated Black power and dared White people to challenge them for that pride. A common verse in those rhymes was "Ungawa!"/"Black power!" or "Ungawa/"We got the power" (with "power" in both examples pronounced like "po-wah").

"*This is a correction of what I wrote in the Mudcat discussion thread whose link is given above.

"Free The Panthers!

Caller- "What time is it?"
Group response- ["It's] "Nation Time"
This was a Black cultural nationalist chant. This chant and many of the other Black power chants that I've listed here from my memory were chanted at cultural programs and not protests. They were chanted by members of the Newark, New Jersey Black cultural nationalist group that was led by Amiri Baraka (Le Roi Jones). The "nation" refers to furthering African American Black community ties, institutions, and businesses, and not to creating a separate Black nation within the territory of the United States or elsewhere. However, some Black nationalist did have that goal.

"Power To The People!"


I'm not sure what Black power or Black civil rights slogans were chanted during the 1980s.

The saying "Don't believe The hype" comes to mind. That saying comes from a late 1980s? recording by the rap group Public Enemy. Maybe this counts as a protest chant. I'm not sure.


"No justice, No peace"
The first use of this slogan that I've been able to identify was in late 1992/ early 1993 in demonstrations regarding the death of Malice Green.
quoting an editorial written by Jimmy Smith on the LETP (Law Enforcement Trainer's Page)
"The demonstrations in Detroit [Michigan] after the [Malice] Green incident, and the chants of "No Justice No Peace," rang out on every T.V. network in the nation. Anytime any human being dies, it is indeed a sad event. When that death occurs under circumstances such as was the case here, then of course it should be investigated to the fullest extent. That investigation should not be influenced by or for political considerations. Impartiality must by present, to protect all involved. The officers, the victim and indeed, the community."
Quoting from the Wikipedia article
"Malice Green was a resident of Detroit, Michigan who died while in police custody after being arrested by Detroit police officers Walter Budzyn and Larry Nevers on November 5, 1992 during a traffic stop. Both officers were later convicted for Green's death...The incident occurred only months after the Los Angeles riots of 1992, which protested the acquittal of police officers in the video-taped beating of Rodney King."

"The Jena Six were six black teenagers convicted in the beating of Justin Barker, a white student at Jena High School in Jena, Louisiana, on December 4, 2006. Barker was injured in the assault by the members of the Jena Six, and received treatment for his injuries at an emergency room. While the case was pending, it was often cited by some media commentators as an example of racial injustice in the United States, due to a belief that the defendants had initially been charged with too-serious offenses and had been treated unfairly...

The Jena Six case sparked protests by those viewing the arrests and subsequent charges, initially attempted second-degree murder (though later reduced), as excessive and racially discriminatory. The protesters asserted that white Jena youths involved in other incidents were treated leniently. On September 20, 2007, between 15,000 and 20,000 protesters marched on Jena in what was described as the "largest civil rights demonstration in years".[2][3] Related protests were held in other US cities on the same day.[4] Subsequent reactions included songs alluding to the Jena Six, a considerable number of editorials and opinion columns, and Congressional hearings."
These are the slogans that reporters indicated the Jena 6 marchers chanted or that I noticed on photographs and videos were written on signs carried by the marchers or were written on their tee shirts from the Jena Six marches {In Louisiana and elsewhere} on September 21, 2007:

"Free Jena 6" or "Free The Jena 6" [These were by far the most widely used slogans.]

"No Justice. No Peace" [This slogan was next in prominence to "Free Jena Six"]

"No justice no peace no racist police"

"Blacks Protests N'Justice"
"N'Justice = injustice

"They stood for us now we stand for them.
Free Jena 6"

"non-violence or non-existence"

From African American Protest Slogans & Songs
From: Neil D
Date: 11 Oct 07 - 12:03 AM

...I spent some time at work today reading through the interesting thread that you started regarding African American slogan and songs. I thought about posting a chant we used to do at May 4th memorials at Kent State in the '70's: Two, Four, Six, Eight, Remember Kent and Jackson State. The May 4th coalition always made a point of including a contingent from Jackson State to memorialize the much less publicized, but just as tragic, killing of African American students at Jackson State when police fired indescriminantly into a dormitory. This event happened just a few weeks after the Kent State shootings, but never drew the attention of the media like the white students at Kent State. Thus, the chant...."

From African American Protest Slogans & Songs
From: Azizi
Date: 25 Mar 12 - 07:50 AM
[summarized] A documented chant from the Million Hoodies march (as per Internet articles) was - "Whose street?/ Our streets."

'Million Hoodie' march takes Union Square in protest of Trayvon Martin's fatal shooting

The demonstrators burst into a chant of “Justice for Trayvon!” as slain Florida teen's parents joined protest
BY Edgar Sandoval , Helen Kennedy / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS ; Wednesday, March 21, 2012, 8:41 PM
A link to one of three pancocojams posts about chants that were used in Trayvon Martin marches is given above.

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Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. Although "protest chants" is one of the tags for this series about chants, actually I think that the reason for many of the post 1960s marches and rallies isn't as much to protest some law or action as to demand some redress for or reform of some unjust law or action. I think that's an important distinction.

  2. In several comments in that Mudcat thread about African American Protest Slogans & Songs, I wondered why African American demonstrations (marches/rallies) no longer included group singing. To quote a slightly corrected portion of one of those comments, "it seems to me that the use of adapted spirituals during the 1960s civil rights movement reflected Black cultural traditions. question is have African American traditions changed with regard to protest marching?

    Nowadays, is chanting still "in", but singing too old school? "

    I mentioned in that Mudcat discussion that I've noticed that African American marches & rallies no longer include group singing , although rallies often include performers singing while the group watches. I think that the reasons for this significant change are:

    In the 1960s African American demonstrators and people of other races/ethnicities who supported those causes sung civil rights songs (also called "freedom songs") to help unify them, encourage them & strengthen their will in the face of real physical danger or other potential very negative consequences to themselves and/or their families. The consequences to attending a march or rally nowadays isn't as great. Therefore, there's not as much need for those songs or other songs like them.

    The mass media needs quick sound bits and chants & signage provide those sound bites better than songs.

    Singing is largely reserved for professionals more than it was in the 1960s. Most African Americans (and I believe most other Americans) are used to being the audience while singing is being done. And many people would probably be embarrassed to sing in public during all but a few occasions such as during church services, and during religious or non-religious concerts.

    I'm interested in your opinion about this subject.

    1. I meant to give a hat tip to my internet friend sian, west wales for her comment on that Mudcat thread Date: 04 Oct 07 - 06:45 AM . Among other interesting points in that comment, including the fact that the clenched fist* is found in some Welsh protests, she wrote that "I wonder if songs are not so prevalent in marches any more because of the sound bite culture of the media - you can pack a lot of message into a few seconds of a chant where no news report would be long enough to include enough of a song to get a message across."
      *The right arm held up and usually held slightly inclined forward with the right hand clenched is a familiar symbol of late 1960s/1970s African American protests. I think its use has also decreased.

  3. Here are protest chants that were documented by a participant in a Ferguson October march in St. Louis, Missouri on October 11, 2014. (That march and other protest actions were primarily spurred by a policeman shooting to death Mike Brown, an unarmed teenager who had his hand up in the universal gesture of surrender.)

    "The chants echoed through the downtown streets of St Louis from a diverse multi-racial crowd that I estimated to be around 4000-5000:

    "Hands Up! Don’t shoot!”

    “No justice! No peace! No racist police!”

    “Turn it up. Turn it down. We’re going this for Mike Brown!"

    “They shoot us down. We shut sh&t* down.”

    “We’re young. We’re strong. We’re marching all night long!” "
    *This word was fully spelled out.
    The blogger also mentioned the signage "Black life matters".


    Sun Oct 12, 2014 at 09:08 PM PDT.

    "Ferguson means fight back: Thousands march in St. Louis against police violence

    by BobboSphere

    “Ferguson means fight back!”

  4. The 80's chant was "The Cosby Show- Thursdays at 7:00 on NBC!"

    1. Oculus Orbus, I don't understand your comment. What 80's chant are you referring to? Do you mean that a particular chant was part of The Cosby Show?