Anne Harley, assistant professor of music at Scripps College, presents The “True Witness” Project: Commemorating African-American Women in the Civil Rights Movement.
Although the broad strokes of contributions to civil rights may be familiar to the general public, the actions and words of African-American women have been overlooked, and their contributions largely unrecognized. Inspired by her Core I students and fellow faculty, Professor Harley looked for ways in which she could make some meaningful remediation to this situation via music. With the collaboration of Northeastern University’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, in 2012 she proposed that Scripps College commission a new choral cycle to help address these deficits: True Witness. The True Witness 30-minute choral cycle sets to music the letters, speeches, and poems of African-American female poets, activists, and leaders. The Scripps premiere in November 2013 will mark significant anniversaries of two major events in American history: the 150th anniversary of the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, and the 50th year since the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers in 1963.
At the heart of this project is the desire to recognize the African-American women whose actions made an impact on our nation’s history of civil rights. Through the interpretation of their words, set to music and song, it is hoped that this project will urge audiences, students, scholars, and the community to consider the historical significance behind the struggle for civil rights to create better forms of society and self. Professor Harley will discuss the origins of the project, the process involved in creating the libretto for the multi-choir cantata, and the project’s ongoing evolution. In a special appearance, women of the Claremont Chamber Choir, under the direction of Professor Charles Kamm, will give the audience a preview of the music that will premiere at Scripps College on November 10.