Boston Public Library Unveils “Revolutionary Music: Music and Social Change”

Exploring the connection between music and social change, “Revolutionary Music” kicks off a three-year cycle of programs leading to the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution

BOSTON, MA - March 19, 2024The Boston Public Library (BPL) today announced Revolutionary Music: Music and Social Change, a year-long overview of how music has spurred social change in the United States. It is the first year of Road to Revolution, a series of three thematic years leading up to the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution. 

Revolutionary Music will use a combination of programs and examples from BPL's collections to celebrate music's rich history of catalyzing social change, acting as a powerful conduit for dissent, unity, awareness, and cultural influence. From spirituals to jazz, folk, reggae, punk, and hip-hop, various music genres have echoed societal shifts and served as a voice for some of the protests and movements that have changed the course of history. Through captivating performances and discussions, curated booklists and playlists, and thought-provoking displays, the BPL is set to explore and celebrate the transformative impact of music on social change throughout the year.

The BPL will publish monthly musician booklists and blogs, host special events across branches, and highlight notable items in the BPL collections. The full list of programs can be found at Upcoming highlights include:

  • Opera Night with Boston Lyric Opera: Composer Julia Perry's Revolutionary Music | March 21, Central Library in Copley Square| Commemorating the 100th birthday of visionary Black composer and revolutionary artist Julia Perry, musician Ashleigh Gordon, co-founder of Castle of Our Skins and a powerful advocate for Black composers, will explore Perry's fascinating life and work in a dynamic discussion with conductor and composer Dr. Julius P. Williams. The evening will include performances of Perry's music by Boston Lyric Opera artists, as well as an audience Q&A.
  • Lecture and Presentation: Musical Genres of Cabo Verde | March 28, Central Library in Copley Square | Dr. Luis M. Barros will discuss Cabo Verde's rich musical landscape, exploring various styles such as morna, coladera, funana, and batuque. Highlighting their expertise lyrics and diverse qualities, he'll delve into the history, attributes, nostalgic imagery, sensual dances, and their contribution to Lusophone culture globally.
  • Flamenco for All Dance Class | April 2, Central Library in Copley Square | Yuling Spanish Dance will lead this class to introduce Flamenco dance and music to all ages. All the participants will learn the essential elements of Flamenco dance vocabularies including hand movements, body movements, and footwork to get a taste of the spirit and passion of Flamenco dance.
  • Reclaiming Folk: Celebrating People of Color in Folk Music | April 4, Central Library in Copley Square | The Reclaiming Folk Event Series celebrates people of color in folk music, providing a space for marginalized voices and showcasing the historical contributions of people of color to American folk music. The 90-minute program features performances by Massachusetts-based folk artists Naomi Westwater, Pamela Means, and Kim Moberg, followed by a 30-minute moderated talk back with Boston Poet Laureate Porsha Olayiwola, allowing the musicians to discuss their songs and experiences as folk musicians.
  • American Perspectives Vol II: An Exploration of the Recital Repertoire | April 11, Central Library in Copley Square | "American Perspectives" showcases William Grant Still's Suite for Violin and Piano, inspired by Harlem Renaissance art, Amy Beach's dynamic sonata, and Manuel Ponce's Estrellita. The project highlights lesser-known works by American and Latin American composers, emphasizing their diverse perspectives on the American experience. Violinist Bree Fotheringham and pianist Kyle Orth will perform this edition.
  • SONG-CRAFT: Weeklong Artist Development Workshops for Teens | April 16-19, Central Library in Copley Square | Teens will work with local music producer Tony "Hamstank" Hamoui to learn everything required to be able to create full, original songs. First you'll focus on software and hardware mastery then use this mastery to craft songs. Along the way, we will be dissecting popular music and learning how to think like a producer.
  • Lowell Lecture - Dr. John Edward Hasse: The Music of Civil Rights, from Strange Fruit to The Roots | May 22, Central Library in Copley Square | Music has been crucial in African American freedom efforts, from spirituals to explicit protest songs. Anthems like "We Shall Overcome" symbolized the Civil Rights movement, while artists like Sam Cooke and Nina Simone echoed Martin Luther King Jr.'s call for judgement based on character rather than skin color. Dr. John Edward Hasse highlights these songs' impact, showcasing their role in inspiring and advocating for equality.
  • Film Screening - Fanny: The Right to Rock | June 1, Central Library in Copley Square | Join us for a screening of a film celebrating the untold story of a Filipina American founded garage band that morphed into the ferocious rock group Fanny, the first band of women to release an LP with a major label.
  • Lowell Lecture & Performance - June Millington & Emm Gryner: Music & Activism | June 1, Central Library in Copley Square | June Millington, guitarist and founding member of the all-female rock band Fanny, will converse with Emm Gryner, independent singer/songwriter, bassist, and pianist, about Fanny, music, and activism, concluding with a musical performance.

Additionally, the BPL's Newsfeed Café will host a miniseries of concerts in partnership with the Berklee College of Music, and the selected musicians for the Summer 2024 Concerts in the Courtyard will reflect the Revolutionary Music theme.

The following years in the Road to Revolution cycle will include Revolutionary Art, presented in 2025, followed by Revolutionary Boston in 2026. For the latest Revolutionary Music events, visit:



Established in 1848, the Boston Public Library is a pioneer of public library service in America. It was the first large, free municipal library in the United States; the first public library to lend books; the first to have a branch library; and the first to have a children’s room. 

The Boston Public Library of today is a robust system that includes the Central Library in Copley Square, 25 neighborhood branches, the Norman B. Leventhal Map and Education Center, the Kirstein Business Library and Innovation Center, and an archival center, offering public access to world-class special collections of rare books, manuscripts, photographs, and prints, along with rich digital content and online services. 

The Boston Public Library serves nearly 4 million visitors per year and millions more online. All of its programs and exhibitions are free to all and open to the public. The Boston Public Library is a department of the City of Boston, under the leadership of Mayor Michelle Wu. To learn more, visit