This year, for the first time in American history, Juneteenth is celebrated as a federal holiday. The tradition, in honor of the abolition of slavery in the United States, however, has long been established as a marker of actual independence for Black Americans–complete with all the fixings of a celebration across the country: togetherness, food, and, of course, music.
For as long as one can remember, music has served as a source of autonomy from the Negro Spirituals of enslaved Africans to the unlikely protest anthems of Lil Baby. Whether passed down from generation to generation through oral tradition or streamed on our favorite platforms, music continues to be an intuitive source of communication for Black people across the globe. It is an equal outlet for sorrow and joy; for devastation and inspiration. It sits at the root of our freedom and continues to score the ever-evolving fight for change.
With this in mind, The Source presents 19 tracks of the past and present that best represent our perpetual march toward liberty. It is a soundtrack to the battles we’ve won, the enemies that continue to stalk our communities, and the will to persist in the unchaining of our people. From Nina Simone to Childish Gambino, we find that the nature of the beast has not changed as oppression continues to reprogram itself as time goes on. Yet, music as a medium for awareness and channel of expression remains constant. Across Jazz, R&B, Hip-Hop, and Reggae, the message remains the same. As we collectively celebrate this day in remembrance of the past and in hope for the future that awaits, may these tracks bring comfort, pride, and liberation.
There will invariably be some songs you may feel should be on this list of 19 songs. Indeed, that is a fact! This is a beginning of what we hope will inspire more playlists for the liberation and upliftment of Black people and all those oppressed. Let us know what you think and who else deserves the acknowledgement for the culture.
- “Say It Loud – I’m Black & I’m Proud” – James Brown
- “This Is America” – Donald Glover
- “The Message” – Grandmaster Flash & Furious Five feat. Melle Mel & Duke Bootee
- “The Bigger Picture” – Lil Baby
- “Holler If Ya’ Hear Me” – Tupac
- “Alright” – Kendrick Lamar
- U.N.I.T.Y. – Queen Latifah
- “Mississippi Goddam” – Nina Simone
- “Fight For You” – H.E.R.
- “A Change is Gonna Come” – Sam Cooke
- “Emancipation” – Prince
- “Glory” – Common feat. John Legend
- “Fight The Power” – Public Enemy
- “What’s Going On” – Marvin Gaye
- “Strange Fruit” – Billie Holiday
- “Higher Ground” – Stevie Wonder
- “Redemption Song” – Bob Marley & The Wailers
- “Be Free” – J. Cole
- “Optimistic” – Sounds Of Blackness