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January 25th, 2017

Lecture on Motown and the Civil Rights Movement



Tom Ingrassia
NEWBURGH - What affect did Motown’s development have on the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s? Find out on Thurs., Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. when a lecture at the Newburgh Free Library traces the development of, and interconnections between, the burgeoning popularity of The Motown Sound and the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. The snow date is Thurs., Feb. 16 at 7 p.m.

Celebrate Black History Month with Motown Historian Tom Ingrassia who will chronicle the ground breaking role Motown Records and its artists played in American culture and society during the Civil Rights Era. Using video and audio clips, and spinning the stories behind the music, Ingrassia traces the rise of Motown in the mid-1960s--and how the music helped to bridge the gaps between blacks and whites during a turbulent time in American history.

“The music of Motown brought people together more effectively than any other cultural phenomenon. It didn’t matter if you were black or white, rich or poor, young or old—we all were listening to and dancing to Motown in the 1960s. And we still are today. Motown changed the world’s image of people of color,” said Ingrassia.

Ingrassia, who formerly worked for Mary Wilson of The Supremes and The Velvelettes, explores several key questions in this entertaining and enlightening lecture. Were these two cultural and social movements working together to bring African-American culture into the white mainstream? Did Motown’s founder Berry Gordy use the more open climate of racial equality fostered by the Civil Rights Movement to achieve his goal of mass popularity for his artists? Or did the Civil Rights Movement use the popularity of the Motown Sound to further its causes? Why was Motown music so popular during the 60s and how did it become “The Sound” of Young America? And why has Motown music remained popular to this day?

Tom Ingrassia left a successful, 25-year career in higher education to pursue his lifelong dream of working in the entertainment industry. Along the way, he had the opportunity to work with many of the legendary singers he grew up listening to and idolizing in the 1960s, including Arlene Smith (The Chantels), Barbara Alston (The Crystals), June Monteiro (The Toys), The Velvelettes, and Carl Gardner (The Coasters).  The highlight, however, was serving as Executive Assistant and Creative Director for Mary Wilson, of The Supremes, from 2001-05.

An accomplished music journalist, Ingrassia has more than 25 articles printed in publications ranging from Billboard, Worcester Business Journal, Spirit of Change, Goldmine, and Record Auction Monthly, to Soul Survivor and San Francisco Hot Ticket. In 2007, Tom collaborated with Barbara Alston (of The Crystals) on her autobiography, “There’s No Other,” and Carl Gardner’s (of The Coasters) autobiography, “Yakey Yak, I Fought Back.”

For information, call the Newburgh Free Library, (845) 563-3619 or (845) 563-3600.

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