Bernice Reagon is a living treasure in an institution used to dealing with static treasures. When you meet her, you know there’s something there – a vision, a focus, a drive, an intensity – and that’s never changed.”
Smithsonian Asst Secretary for Public Service
Projects, Events, Writing
The DC Black Repertory Company has scored a bullseye with A Day, A Life, A People which opened at the Last Colony Theater on Wednesday.
This “song talk” written and directed by Bernice Reagon, meets the highest expectations one could have for the young theatrical company. The work has verve, originality, fresh and exiting music and a topicality that should appeal to its broad Washington audience.Read the full post…
A Tribute To Early African American Sacred Song, Spelman College, Sisters Chapel, April 15, 2003Created and produced by Bernice Johnson Reagon, 2002-4 Cosby Professor in the Arts at Spelman College in Atlanta Ga. Working collaboratively with faculty and students of the Theater, Music, Dance and Art departments, Lord I Got A Right! was a production created and produced in celebration of the vitality of African American sacred music traditions on this campus founded in 1881.Read the full post…
1967 Pseukay Summer Arts and Culture Program
An historic performance at an historic event—the “Mix in ’06”—a first time gathering of women from the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), June 24, 2006, Indianapolis, Ind.Read the full post…
An Original Production in Tribute to Sweet Honey in the Rock with Toshi Reagon and BIGLovely
Commissioning Partners: WPAS (Washington Performing Arts Society), Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University of MD, University Musical Society, University of MI, Dartmouth College, NJPAC (New Jersey Performing Arts Center) University of IL, Champaign/Urbana, University of Austin.Read the full post…
The Penny Festival: February 12, 1967
I headed a committee of parents who produced The Penny Festival as a fundraiser for an interracial pre-school that we had started for our children, The Atlanta Cooperative Pre-School Center.Read the full post…
Songtalk Octavo Score project
In 1985 Compositions I was published. The scores in this collection are now being revised and will be available as octavo scores. Dr Catherine Roma is Transcription Editor of the project, with Kabanya Vinson as current Songtalk Score Editor. For titles now available, contact Kathy Ostien at Songways.
We’ll Understand It Better By and By: Pioneering African American Gospel Composers Published 1992 by Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press
A curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and a noted gospel singer herself, Reagon presents a superb collection of essays—by academics who are also gospel performers or record producers—that focus on major figures in black gospel music: Charles A. Tindley, Lucie Campbell Williams, Thomas A. Dorsey, William H. Brewster Sr., Roberta Martin and Kenneth Morris. (from Publishers Weekly, Reed Business Information, Inc.)
If You Don’t Go, Don’t Hinder Me: The African American Sacred Song Tradition Published 2001 by University of Nebraska Press
“If you don’t go, don’t hinder me. I am leaving this place. I would like company. If I have to travel alone, don’t get in my way” How do you survive leaving everything you know to try to reconstruct your life and future in a new way? What do you carry with you on your journey to the new place? Migration looms large as a theme in twentieth–century African American life. Bernice Johnson Reagon uses this theme as a centering structure for four essays that examine different genres of African American sacred music as they manifested themselves throughout the twentieth century and within her own life.
We Who Believe in Freedom: Sweet Honey In The Rock: Still On The Journey Published 1993 by Doubleday Publishing
We Who Believe in Freedom moves with energy and good pacing through the lives and rhythms of the women who make up the group. It includes essays by each member of the group and their support team, historical essays, and appreciations by both Alice Walker and Angela Davis. Part of the celebration of Sweet Honey’s 20th Anniversary year.
Compositions One: The Original Compositions of Bernice Johnson Reagon Published 1986 by Songtalk Publishing
This unique book includes 35 original arrangements and compositions by Bernice Johnson Reagon. Many songs are written about or dedicated to pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement. Each song is preceded by an explanation of its meaning or significance.
The scores in this collection are now being revised and will be available as octavo scores. The transcription editor is Kabanya Vinson. For titles now available, contact Kathy Ostien at Songways.
Compositions Two publication date: Winter 2007 by Songtalk Publishing
The second collection of full choral arrangements by Bernice Johnson Reagon. More than 30 works transcribed by score transcription editor, Dr Catherine Roma.
Coalition Politics: Turning the Century in Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology Published 1983 by Kitchen Table Women of Color Press; Rutgers University Press, 2000
While addressing the West Coast Women’s Music Festival in 1981, longtime activist and musician Bernice Johnson Reagon spoke cogently and movingly about the challenges of coalition work. Among other points, she drew an important distinction between the safe, home-like space that those challenging the status quo may need to bolster themselves and to help define their work, and the challenging, stretching, and often uncomfortable space of coalition-building.
Her remarks were presented in Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology (ed. Barbara Smith, Kitchen Table Press, 1983; Rutgers University Press, 2000) as “Coalition Politics: Turning the Century,” and are just as relevant for advocates in this century as they were for those in the last. (from © Advocacy Institute 2005)
Awards and Recognition
Philadelphia artist Linda Lee Alter established the Leeway Foundation in 1993 to promote female artists in the five-county Philadelphia area.Read the full post…
In 1995 Dr. Reagon was awarded the Presidential Medal and The Charles E Frankel Prize For Contributions To The Public Understanding Of The Humanities.Read the full post…
Dr. Reagon was awarded a MacArthur Fellows award in 1989. This is an unrestricted fellowship, awarded "to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction."
— from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation website
Williams College, Williamstown, MA, Berkshire Institute for Student Activism
November 11, 2006 closing presentation to a conference of students, faculty and Community activists exploring ways to have student led organizing linked with issues in the community hosting the campuses.Read the full post…
On the eve of President Barack Obama taking office in 2008, Glenor Roberts, programme advisor to Mpenzi, part of The Healing Foundation, wrote in appreciation of Dr. Reagon:Read the full post…
"Neal Conan talks with Reagon and her daughter, Toshi Reagon, about the creation, impact and influence of music during the civil rights movement."
— National Public Radio, February 11, 2010
Excerpted from the full Berklee News article "Bernice Johnson Reagon On Freedom Fighting" by Fred Brouchard, associate professor in the Liberal Arts Department, Berklee College of Music:Read the full post…
My life, the work I have done as a way of being alive is just that, the way I have chosen to experience life in this universe. The path has not simply been what unfolded before me, at every point I have had the freedom to chose the way I would take. And I have at times made choices that risked everything I had to become who I am and to do the work I have been blessed to do.Read the full post…
- “The Music Kept Us from Being Paralyzed: A Talk with Bernice Johnson Reagon,” in Black Notes: Essays of A Musician Writing in a Post-Album Age, William C. Banfield, 2004. Scarecrow Press, Lanham, Maryland.
- “Nobody Knows the Trouble I See; or By and By I’m Gonna Lay Down My Heavy Load,” The Journal of American History, June 1991.
- “Women as Culture Carriers in the Civil Rights Movement: Fannie Lou Hamer,” Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers and Torchbearers, 1941-1965, editors, Vicki L. Crawford, Jacqueline Anne Rouse, and Barbara Woods, part of a sixteen-volume series entitled Black Women in United States History, Indiana University Press, 1993 (originally published, New York: Carlson Publishing, 1990).
- “The Lined Hymn as a Song of Freedom,” Black Music Research Bulletin, Vol. 12, No. 1, 1990.
- “Foreword,” Re-imaging America: The Arts of Social Change, editors, Mark O-Brian and Craig Little, Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1989.
- “African Diaspora Women: The Making of Cultural Workers,” Women in Africa and the African Diaspora, editors, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, Sharon Harley, and Andrea Benton Rushing, Howard University Press, 1987.
- “Let the Church Sing Freedom”, Black Music Research Journal, Vol. 7, 1987.
- “Zora Neale Hurston” and “Mary McLeod Bethune,” Dictionary of American Biography, W.W. Norton & Company.
- “Rubye Doris Robinson,” Biographies of American Women, Harvard University Press, 1980