Words like prejudice, racism, intolerance and bias all come to mind when we hear a musical tune with lyrics that emphasizes bigotry, differences of any sort always invite an opportunity for intolerance and inequality among people, but they also help to enlighten us and make us more culturally aware and compassionate. I recently came across a video on You Tube from one of my very favorite singers, the ultra-passionate; Eartha Kitt entitled “Angelitos Negros” in which she sings about the travesty of seeing only white faces of angels as she enters a church. For those of us who are not of color, or, who do not exhibit any outward indications that we belong to a particular ethnic affiliation or race, it is probably hard to imagine what it would be like to experience this type of oversight in our very own spiritual sanctuary.
What I found extremely poignant about the song she was singing was the way the composer questioned the artists who contributed to this form of obvious narrow-mindedness. Kitt wanted to take a stand and so she recorded the song to draw attention to the inappropriate portrayal of these “Godly” messengers, however, the triumph over this tragedy remains in the lines of this song, Kitt sang, we can begin to empathize with those who identify with such incidences and who are constantly singled out and unfairly treated in society just because of the color of their skin, their unconventional demeanor, their appearance, a disability that they struggle with or because of their strong allegiance to their religious beliefs.
Throughout history there have been (and still are) many composers, singers and actors who have, during the course of their careers, dedicated themselves to the civil rights movement, musical artists like Lena Horne (a prominent member of the NAACP) who flat out refused to sing for racially segregated groups of soldiers in World War II in order to use her celebrity status to draw attention to the social injustices members of the armed forces suffered. Horne later worked with Eleanor Roosevelt to repeal laws that persecuted persons of color.
Lena Horne on one of her Visits to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt
Composers who Advocate Cultural Compassion & Better Race Relations
Scene from Guess Who is Coming to Dinner (1967)
Take a listen to the songs or set aside a special hour or two to watch one or several of the films listed below and please give some significant thought to these very hopeful and yet, sadly, recurring themes.
Eartha, Kitt. Angelitos, Negros, YouTube video. Retrieved from
Charlie and the Bhoys CD, Let the People Sing the Music of their Native Land. You Tube video. Retrieved from
Ray Johnson, Your favorite Martian Music Video– The Stereotype Song. You Tube video.
Jim Car, Dancing and singing as Cuban Pete, The Mask Theme Son. You Tube video.
Top Ten Films about Race and Prejudice