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Guy and Candie Carawan honored for lifetime of social justice cultural education

Sing for Freedom by Guy and Candie Carawan

Guy and Candie Carwan, authors of Sing For Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Its Songs, published by NewSouth Books, were honored recently by the East Tennessee Historical Society, the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound, McClung Historical Collection, and the Knox County Public Library with a celebration of their work for social justice. The program included a photography exhibit, showing of rare video footage from the civil rights era, and a musical performance.

The Carawans have been associated with the Highlander Research and Education Center, a leading social justice organization, since the 1950s, organizing cultural workshops and serving as consultants to the school. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, “the Carawans were almost the face of the center for many people.” The couple were popular folk musicians who adapted traditional songs with new lyrics about the civil rights struggle. These songs were collected into two collections, We Shall Overcome (1963) and Freedom is a Constant Struggle (1968), reprinted in a single edition by NewSouth Books in 2007.

The News Sentinel interviewed Candie Carawan in connection with the program showcasing their career.

The newspaper quoted Carwan, “We never sat down and plotted out, ‘Well, we’ll be working in the South for 35 years and doing all this documentary work. We just kind of took it year by year and followed our interests and in some ways followed the work that Highlander (Center) was doing. It just kind of added up to an interesting body of work and life of experiences.’

“‘You’ll get to this point, too, where you just cannot believe that much time has gone by and you’ve lived through these incredible periods of history. I think about the way the Civil Rights movement has been commemorated so much lately and it just doesn’t seem like 50 years ago, more than 50 years ago. Again, it’s just to have been so lucky. Both of us grew up in Southern California. How amazing is it that our paths crossed at Highlander and we were able to stay in the South and relate to so much incredible history that was going on?'”

Sing For Freedom is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.