Carawan, Guy

Alternative names
Birth 1928-07-27

Biographical notes:

Guy and Candie Carawan, both natives of California, met in 1960 at the Highlander Folk School (now the Highland Research and Education Center) in New Market, Tenn., as participants in the civil rights movement. Married shortly thereafter, the Carawans have since been active as collectors of folklore and folk music, singers, musicians, educators, and socio-political activists. They are best known for their efforts to document and disseminate music associated with the civil rights movement of the 1960s, which resulted in several commercially released recordings and printed music anthologies. They have been involved in a variety of musical traditions and social causes in the South and elsewhere, often in connection with their work at the Highlander Research and Education Center.

Guy Carawan was born 7 July 1927 in Santa Monica, Calif. His mother was originally from South Carolina, his father from North Carolina. While pursuing a degree in mathematics at Occidental College, Carawan studied folklore with Austin Fife and performed folk music. He subsequently completed a master's degree in sociology at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he continued his study of folklore with Wayland Hand. During the early 1950s, Carawan grew interested in incorporating folk music and topical songs into progressive socio-political activism and became involved in the People's Song movement, meeting such activist-musicians as Pete Seeger and Lee Hays. In 1959, he became the director of music at the Highlander Folk School, an institution that provided instruction in social organization and was a meeting place for people interested in the civil rights movement and related causes in the South.

Candie Anderson, also from southern California, became interested in the black civil rights movement while in high school. She attended Pomona College near Los Angeles, but spent her junior year of college at Fisk University, a historically African American institution in Nashville, Tenn. While there, she participated in pro-integration demonstrations led by black students in Nashville. She became acquainted with Guy Carawan during a workshop at the Highlander School.

Candie and Guy Carawan have remained affiliated with the Highlander Center and have been active as musicians and participants in various social movements since the 1960s. They spent several years in the predominantly black community of Johns Island, S.C., where they addressed issues of racial discrimination and rural poverty, particularly through a citizenship education program formulated by the Highlander School. They participated in major civil rights campaigns in Birmingham, Atlanta, and other southern cities. Through workshops at the Highlander Center and elsewhere, they collected variants of African American spirituals and other songs for use in civil rights demonstrations and shared them with other participants. Guy Carawan was largely responsible for introducing the spiritual We Shall Overcome to the pro-integration community. The Carawans have also devoted attention to economic and ecological problems in the coal country of Appalachia.

Throughout their careers, the Carawans have sought to document the music and culture of various groups of people with whom they have worked. They have been involved in the production of seventeen documentary recordings and seven films and have written five books, including three anthologies of songs associated with the civil rights movement. Additionally, Guy Carawan has recorded fifteen albums of his own, some involving Candie Carawan and other family members.

Guy and Candie Carawan have two children and reside in Tennessee.

From the guide to the Guy and Candie Carawan Collection, 1955-2010, (Southern Folklife Collection)


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