Work songs were used in Slave communities to help coordinate movement, lift their spirits, and help ward of fatigue while working. Many times, planters would appoint the best and strongest singer to lead the group, since they could keep the work songs going and help improve productivity among the slaves. Songs were also used as a protest against the slave owners. Slaves would sing satiric protest songs to make fun of the slave owners and their families. This was a safe way for the slaves to speak their minds without provoking offense.
In Louisiana, there was a large population of free blacks who lived in prosperous groups. The musicians in these communities got the rare opportunity to study French music and French Opera. These musicians would then minge with slave communities, and through acculturation, creole music was formed.
Folk music played an influential role in the Civil Rights Movement. Musicians would play protest songs to motivate protesters and to put words to their movement. Odetta was specifically known as the “Voice of the Civil Rights Movement”. Her music and politics were a force for the movement and sang at the March on Washington next to Reverand Martin Luther King Jr.