Music also played a key role in the American civil rights movement, of which both Lewis and Vivian were key figures.
In honor of both men, AJC Sepia has put together a Spotify Playlist that traces the evolution of the civil rights movement – through gospel music, spirituals, soul, jazz and rap.
We start with a poem, by Vivian’s favorite poet – Claude McKay.
Vivian often told the story of meeting the Jamaican-born Harlem Renaissance poet once. And if you prompted him, which didn’t take much, he would quickly recite one of his favorite poems by McKay, the stunningly beautiful, “To O.A.E.”
McKay never revealed who O.A.E was, but to hear Vivian say, “Your voice is the color of a robin’s breast, And there’s a sweet sob in it like rain -- still rain in the night,” it didn’t really matter.
But we start the playlist with McKay himself explaining and reading his most famous poem, “If We Must Die,” which was described as the “essence of the New Negro” when it was published in 1919.
In 2013, Vivian recited the poem for a series of stories The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did on him. You can see him read, “that good stuff, Doc,” it in the video below.
The National Monuments Foundation will be acquiring and managing the world-class library of Atlanta Civil Rights icon, C.T. Vivian. The 7,000 volume C.T. Vivian Library is one of the most impressive private collections in the city. (Video by Hyosub Shin / AJC)