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We Shall Overcome: A Song That Changed the World by Stuart Stotts

“We Shall Overcome” isn’t a complicated piece of music. The first verse has only twenty-two words, most of them repeated. The melody is straightforward. The chords are basic. Yet the song has had a profound effect on people throughout the United States—and the world.

In clear, accessible language Stuart Stotts explores the roots of the tune and the lyrics in traditional African music and Christian hymns. He demonstrates the key role “We Shall Overcome” played in the civil rights, labor, and anti-war movements in America. And he traces the song’s transformation into an international anthem. With its dramatic stories and memorable quotes, this saga of a famous piece of music offers a unique way of looking at social history.

Author’s note, bibliography, source notes, index.
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Published 26.07.2019

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UNITED - WE SHALL OVERCOME - 's SNCC Protest Button - Black Power pinback B.
Stuart Stotts

Selma March

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This pin was widely worn by members of all the Freedom Movement organizations for many years. SNCC Sit-in support pin, circa The Committee to Defend Martin Luther King was formed in to fight the lawsuit filed against King for the ad he and others ran in the New York Times supporting the sit-ins and to raise bail money for students who had been arrested. A CORE pin from the early '60s. Basic CORE organizational pin.

Led by Martin Luther King, Jr. As many as 25, people participated in the roughly mile km march.
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The song is most commonly attributed as being lyrically descended from "I'll Overcome Some Day", a hymn by Charles Albert Tindley that was first published in The modern version of the song was first said to have been sung by tobacco workers led by Lucille Simmons during a cigar workers strike in Charleston, South Carolina. In , the song was published under the title " We Will Overcome " in an edition of the People's Songs Bulletin a publication of People's Songs , an organization of which Pete Seeger was the director , as a contribution of and with an introduction by Zilphia Horton , then-music director of the Highlander Folk School of Monteagle, Tennessee an adult education school that trained union organizers. Horton said she had learned the song from Simmons, and she considered it to be her favorite song. She taught it to many others, including Pete Seeger, [3] who included it in his repertoire, as did many other activist singers, such as Frank Hamilton and Joe Glazer , who recorded it in The song became associated with the Civil Rights Movement from , when Guy Carawan stepped in with his and Seeger's version as song leader at Highlander, which was then focused on nonviolent civil rights activism. It quickly became the movement's unofficial anthem.


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  1. The first verse of the civil rights anthem We Shall Overcome is no longer under copyright, a New York federal judge ruled on Friday.

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