Guest Writer Reviews Dr. Johnson-Reagon's Jazz Concert


Bucknell is currently celebrating 50 years since the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Bernice Johnson-Reagon, freedom singer, founder of a women’s a capella group Sweet Honey, cultural historian, and luminary, performed in the Weis Center lobby as a part of this celebration. The audience was lucky to hear her one of a kind voice, which was still amazing even at 71 years old. Although she does not sing the typical music that plays in a Bucknell student’s music library, her talent is undeniable. Johnson-Reagon calls herself a Freedom Singer, who was one of the brave souls to stand up for black rights when it was not the popular thing to do. Her voice and her emotion she exudes when she sings helped inspire the people around her during the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout her life, she has worked as a cultural historian and speaks out against racism and other organized inequalities.


Last night, Johnson-Reagon intertwined her inspiring stories from the Civil Rights Movement and her journey as a freedom singer with song. She performed several songs she wrote herself as well as several well-known spirituals. The combination of stories and songs spoke to the importance of these songs during the Civil Rights movement. The spirituals were truly songs of struggle. The power of her voice was amazing and gave me chills. It was hard to look away as she sang; she demanded attention with her booming voice.

She remarkably still has the vocal range she did when she was 16. The emotion she conveys while singing is palpable. She truly means every word she sings. Even if you are not a spirituals or jazz fan, listening to Johnson-Reagon’s voice was an unforgettable experience.

Erica Shartle '15 is a violist and Arts Merit Scholar studying biology. Photo credit to