Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement

Waist Deep in the Big Muddy
Songwriter: Pete Seeger
Performed by: Pete Seeger


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Toward the end of the 1960s, as the anti-war movement gained momentum, anti-war songs became as popular among activists as freedom songs.

Folk singer Pete Seeger, like Martin Luther King, Jr. and others in the Civil Rights Movement, also campaigned against the Vietnam War. He wrote "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" about a true incident in 1943 that served as an allegory for American intervention in southeast Asia. The first time he tried to sing the song on national television, he was censored; he sang it on the Smothers Brothers show the following year.

Commercial black music of the late Sixties reflected disillusionment with the Vietnam War as well. Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?" (1971) and Jimi Hendrix's version of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" (1968) both alluded to the American military action.

For more on music and the movement, read comments by Bernice Johnson Reagon.

Music courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, folkways.


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