Eloise Gaffney & Louisa Bevelle


Eloise Gaffney & Louisa Bevelle



Interview with Eloise Gaffney & Louisa Bevelle, Civil Rights Movement foot-soldiers and members of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights Choir / Carlton Reese Memorial Unity Choir. Recorded by Burgin Mathews, August 7, 2013, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Dr. Eloise Ford Gaffney is a longtime fixture of Birmingham, Alabama’s gospel music community and a veteran foot-soldier of the Civil Rights Movement. At the age of thirteen, she joined the Birmingham movement both as an activist and as a member of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights Choir, directed by Carlton Reese. Founded in 1959, this choir led the music that helped fuel the mass meetings and marches of the local movement. In later years the choir was revived for Birmingham’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Breakfast; after the death of its director, the group was renamed the Carlton Reese Memorial Unity Choir. It continues to perform—with both original members and more recent additions—under that name.

In this interview, Gaffney was joined by Louisa Bevelle, another choir member and movement participant. The interview was conducted by Burgin Mathews in 2013 in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of Birmingham’s most pivotal year—1963—when the protests of hundreds of local Black youth (including Gaffney and Bevelle) paved the way for both local and national change. 

For additional testimonies of the Birmingham movement and its music, see also this archive’s interviews with Mamie Brown Mason and the Carlton Reese Memorial Unity Choir. Additional oral histories highlighting the role of music in the movement are forthcoming on this site.



Birmingham, Alabama

Original Format

Digital audio





“Eloise Gaffney & Louisa Bevelle,” Southern Music Research Center, accessed April 18, 2024, https://southernmusicresearch.org/items/show/694.