By Daily Mail
Top, center: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a White House commemoration of Black History Month with a star-studded event last week. Pictured clockwise are: Robert DeNiro, Natalie Cole, Morgan freeman, Seal, Joan Baez, The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Howard University Choir, Yolanda Adams, Bob Dylan, John Legend, Smokey Robinson and Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon.
President Barack Obama hosted an all-star lineup of performers at the White House to celebrate the music that fueled the civil rights movement.
The nation’s first black president transformed the grand ballroom into a concert hall packed with members of his Cabinet, Congress, civil rights leaders and students for a program that aired on public television for Black History Month.
Actor Morgan Freeman, who read excerpts from historical works throughout the night, hearkened back to the song lyrics Mr Obama invoked during his election-night victory speech in Chicago’s Grant Park.
‘A long time coming,’ Freeman said. He later deadpanned: ‘I wish I could sing.’
‘The civil rights movement was a movement sustained by music,’ Mr Obama said as he welcomed his audience.
He said activists from coast to coast were inspired by spirituals, felt their will sharpened by protest songs and base broadened by artists of hope.
He said their work created a more just America that allowed him to make history in 2008 with his election.
‘Tonight, we celebrate the music of the movement,’ Mr Obama said.
The Howard University Choir and The Freedom Singers performed at a mansion that in its history was maintained by slaves.
Mr Obama said the music helped the movement’s faith as their leaders were jailed and their churches bombed.
‘It’s hard to sing when times are rough,’ Mr Obama said. ‘The hymns helped … advance the cause of the nation.’
During that week Black leaders met with President Obama to remind him of the nation’s need for jobs.