Programs Examine Protest, Political Music at Library

Wayne Litmer Photography

Starting today, music fans have the chance to travel back in time when musicians addressed social concerns such as the Civil Right Movement and the Vietnam War with “protest” sings during three special “Listen to This” events at the Main Library. The first event in the series kicks off at 7 p.m. tonight, July 30, in the Popular Library Lounge with special guest speaker David Little talking about “1946-1962: The Post WWII Awakening.” 

The Library will assemble from its collection materials including newspapers and magazines from the time period to supplement each presentation. The next two presentations are “1962-1966: The Heat of the Battle ─ Death in Dallas, Civil Rights, Free Speech, Seeds of Insurrection” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27, and “1966-1973: Role of Politicized Rock and Roll in the Countercultural Rebellion” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24, both in the Popular Library Lounge. For more information, call 513-369-6917. Visit

During the 1950s, Beat era politicized folk music flowered in conjunction with an emerging consciousness of pressing national and international issues impacting American citizens. These currents of musical commentary included civil rights, nuclear proliferation, cultural homogeneity, free speech, students’ rights, the Vietnam War, environmentalism, human rights, drugs and the emerging rebellious youth counterculture. The 1950s were primarily the vehicle for singing groups that often adopted social themes and utilized recordings and concerts as forums for commentary on political and moral issues. As the stakes became more intense the volume and the clarity of the protest began a metamorphosis into a clear denunciation of public policies and demanding a voice and action by fellow citizens and their governments. Individual singer songwriters emerged with more probing questions and insistent demands and they were featured in key moments of upheaval and protest such as the Berkley Free Speech movement and the March of Washington lead by Dr. Martin Luther King in 1963. These musical commentaries and calls to action continued as the nation spun out of control in opposition to the Vietnam War and in the African American revolt of the 1960s. 

A longtime progressive political activist and professional public policy communications consultant, David Little has spent years chronicling the upheavals and travails of his time. Of particular interest has been how music and politics have intersected and infused the other with an energy and dynamism that brought both societal and cultural change that was often met by governmental resistance and suppression. He has been a consistent advocate and participant in social and political campaigns and continuously engaged in efforts to promote change and improve the human condition. Little is an avid archivist, a published poet, a serious collector of music and prolific gatherer of political paraphernalia, chiefly including thousands of political buttons, books and materials amassed over a period of years. These organized collections offer a vivid physical snapshot of five decades of American life and times. 

About Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is one of the oldest, largest, and busiest libraries in the United States, serving a population of over 800,000 with a collection of more than 9 million items. In support of its mission of connecting people with the world of ideas and information, the Library also offers a wide variety of services and more than 20,000 free programs each year.