Jamila Jones oral history interview conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Atlanta, Georgia, 2011-04-27.
JJ: I will. Um, I do want to say a bit more about Highlander and how our songs began to change as we, uh, attended those workshops with Guy Carawan and all. If you go back to the songs, you’ll see that we were singing songs, but basically we didn’t write the songs. There is a Montgomery song that represents that movement that was written by one of the professors at Alabama State, which for me for that era was the first actual song that was written for the movement. And I’d like to get that in, because people think it happened later on, but, no, right at that time, he wrote that song.
But when we went to Highlander, we were singing some of the songs, basically the freedom songs, basically as they were done traditionally. And we are traditional singers, uh, and we would add a word in, and a verse or a line, to represent our movement, or sometimes we would change a line. But we weren’t actually changing whole songs until actually we got there - to Highlander - and saw others do it. And then, we thought we were equipped. We were going back then, writing songs and doing our own, you know, version of the songs. But we kept it traditional, in terms of how we would sing the songs. So, if you hear our album or any of those things, you will see we kept, uh, the traditional ways of, uh, doing that. I wanted to add that [30:00] because I wanted to give him credit for how songs changed during the Movement and that kind of thing.
JM: [Coughs] Excuse me.
JB: What was the song that -?
JM: In particular - yeah?
JB: Yeah, what was that song that he wrote?
JM: There’s one song that your -
JJ: He wrote, uh, uh, “Ain’t Gonna Ride No Bus No More.” And it’s interesting how he wrote that song, because sometimes now when I’m singing it or we are performing that song, people look and say, “Did y’all say ‘hell’?” “Yes, that’s the way he wrote the song,” because he wrote it from a traditional song that, um, I think that that song is “Ain’t Gonna Rain No More.” And in that song it says, “How in the hell do the old folk know it ain’t gonna rain no more?” And he said, “How in the hell don’t the white folk know we ain’t gonna ride them buses no more?”
JM: [Laughs] I have read two different accounts for how, uh, you are credited with adding a very important verse to “We Shall Overcome.” Can you share that story with us?
[Sound levels vary while Ms. Jones is speaking]