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Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Mount Meigs’ By Lonnie Holley

Originally published at Ongoing History of Protest Music

Founded in 1911, the Alabama Industrial School for Negro Children was a juvenile correctional facility in the Mount Meigs community near Montgomery, Alabama. The juvenile facility was notorious for the abuse inflicted on Black youth.

As late as the 1960s, prisoners were forced to pick cotton from early morning to late evening, with physical and sexual abuse commonplace.

“This was functionally a slave plantation,” concluded journalist Josie Duffy Rice, who researched the school’s history for a podcast series. 

Among those who endured those horrors was 73-year-old acclaimed visual artist and avant-garde musician Lonnie Holley, who was arrested when he was 11.

“I was like the Jungle Book child,” Holley shared in 2018. “I was cast away from society.”

Years later those memories continue to haunt Holley to the point of experiencing night terrors. Holley tries to exorcize those past demons on the unsettling “Mount Meigs”, a stand-out track off his recently released fourth album “Oh Me Oh My.”

Hearing Holley say, “They beat the curiosity out of me. They beat it out of me. They whooped it. They knocked it!” is jarring, but it properly confronts the dark past. Holley’s music does not whitewash history.

Listen to Lonnie Holley’s “Mount Meigs”:

CJ Baker

CJ Baker

CJ Baker is a lifelong music fan and published writer. He recently started a website chronicling the historical developments of protest music: ongoinghistoryofprotestsongs.com, and can be found on Twitter @tunesofprotest