We Shall Overcome: A Song That Changed the World

by Stuart Stotts and Terrance Cummings

Stuart Stotts traces the history of the song “We Shall Overcome” in an... read more

Stuart Stotts traces the history of the song “We Shall Overcome” in an account that also offers insight into folk music as a living, ever-changing art form. Glimpses of the song that eventually became “We Shall Overcome” can be found in church hymns from the European tradition and African-influenced slave spirituals. A song called “We Will Overcome” emerged from these antecedents on the picket lines of the labor movement in the first half of the twentieth century, and in the early 1960s, this staple of union activism began to be adapted by singers and organizers in the civil rights movement. Its transformative journey continues today as verses are added to fit new causes. As it has passed from singer to singer, many individuals and groups have shaped the song both musically and lyrically, with Pete Seeger, who provides a foreword for this volume, being one of the most influential. In addition to source notes and a bibliography that includes recordings and DVDs (a CD is included with the book), Stotts relates two personal stories in an author’s note that speaks to the power of this song as part of the struggle for peace and social justice. (Age 11 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2011

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