Holiday released her first recording of this song in 1939, decades before the black Civil Rights movement reached its peak, but its lyrical account of lynching in the American South — ""Southern trees bear strange fruit / Blood on the leaves and blood at the root"" — remains haunting. It's not exactly upbeat, but Holiday's voice has a way of worming its way into the listener's soul, and this song will remind you just why Black History Month is so important.
— Heather Price-Wright
‘I'll Take You There'
The Staple Singers
This family band is not only a catchy, wonderful blend of gospel and soul, but it also captures the optimism of the Civil Rights movement.
— Steven Kwan
‘(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below'
Mayfield's work with The Impressions made his voice instrumental in the Civil Rights and black pride movements, but his solo singles took a more jaded look at egalitarianism. ""If there's a hell below,"" Curtis proclaims in echoing overdub, ""we're all gonna go!"" Cue demonic scream, fuzzed-out bass and racing conga drums. This pioneering funk cut is both a reminder that we're all in this messy world together, and a valid soundtrack to the apocalypse.
— Brandon Specktor
‘I Believe In You And Me'
Post-""Crack is wack""/Pre-""Being Bobby Brown"" Whitney Houston? Check! Grammy award winning single off ""The Preacher's Wife: Original Soundtrack Album""? Check! Another excuse for making Denzel Washington's extended catalogue a part of your February celebration? Double check! Oh, by the way, Whitney Houston is actually a pretty good singer. Did you know that?
— Remy Albillar
‘My President is Black'
Young Jeezy feat. Nas
Nothin' says Black History like the first black president, especially when the song comes from an album called The Recession. Jeezy and Nas bat Lambo colors and rim sizes back and forth, but all for reppin' a smooth talkin', basketball playin', went to Harvard and still has mad street cred baller named Barack Obama.
— Jazmine Woodberry