by Marsha Rakestraw

Music has always played a powerful role in social change. Songs about humane issues offer historical context; literary, ethical and cultural insights; and inspiration for positive action. And music is a potentially powerful tool for the classroom.

The Association for Psychological Science published a recent article about exploring social justice through music, noting, ” … listening to music stands out as an almost daily occurrence in the lives of young adults. One only needs to walk around for a few minutes on most college or university campuses to see numerous people listening to music through their phones and other devices. The experience of listening to music can potentially shape an individual’s values, actions, and worldview.”

Whether you’re a classroom teacher, parent or community activist, music can be a powerful ally. Here are five sources for finding social justice songs to fit your need, or just to add to your own playlist. (Note that many of these songs are most appropriate for older students and adults.)

1.  “100 Songs of Protest…” offers a list of 100 songs (and accompanying music videos) that explore “a range of musical genres and many liberation movements.”

2.  “Social Justice Songs,” a project of, offers links to the lyrics of more than 150 social justice songs (listed alphabetically by title.)

3.  “Sociology Sounds” is a blog for teachers that pairs “a great song with a sociological concept.” Search by 25 different categories or browse the blog entries. Each entry usually includes the song’s music video (if there is one), a “why this song” description, and any additional relevant information (such as explicit content). The site welcomes submissions.

4.  “Song Source,” founded by Noel Paul Stookey, of Peter, Paul and Mary fame, offers a database of hundreds of songs focused on social change issues. Search by keyword, song, artist or social cause. The site welcomes submissions.

5.  ”Songs for Justice,” by Jam for Justice, offers a list of more than 100 songs, which can be sorted by release date, title, artist or writer.

There are many song lists about social change issues online. Search by the topic you’re interested in (e.g., environmental songs, protest songs, human rights songs, etc.), and you’ll find a rich collection of suggestions.