October 4

Bernice Johnson Reagon

October 4, 1942 - Albany, Atlanta

Her most powerful weapon is her voice. It always has been. Bernice Johnson Reagon was born in Albany. The Baptist minister's daughter grew up immersed in the power and glory of spirituals. 

Reagon's activism began at Albany State in 1961. She was arrested for participating in a civil rights protest sponsored by SNCC, the Student Non–Violent Coordinating Committee. Having spent the night in jail, she joined the SNCC Freedom Singers, and music became a weapon in her fight for equality.

Expelled from Albany State after her arrest, she transferred to Spelman in Atlanta, earning a degree in history. Her Ph.D. came from Howard University.

In 1973 Reagon formed Sweet Honey in the Rock. For 30 years, she led the ensemble, dedicated to nurturing African-American history and activism through song. In the meantime, as a folklorist at the Smithsonian, she produced Wade in the Water, the Peabody Award-winning radio documentary about the African-American sacred music tradition.

As scholar, composer, singer, producer and teacher, Bernice Johnson Reagon's has been an extraordinary life that began on October 4, 1942, Today in Georgia History.