Arts Post
Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 08/28/2011

Music of the Movement: We Shall Overcome

What would a civil rights meeting have been without the audience singing “We Shall Overcome.”

The popular anthem began as a gospel song written by Charles Albert Tindley in 1901. It was used by various groups fighting for rights. Pete Seeger was taught the song by Zilphia Horton, the music director of the Highlander Folk School, where many activists were trained in nonviolence practices. It is said King first heard the song at the school.
Johnson and King meet at the White House in March 1966. (LBJ LIBRARY PHOTO BY YOICHI R. OKAMOTO)

The song was a comfort to Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) when he was almost beaten to death in the South. The title was used in a speech President Lyndon Johnson gave to the country about civil rights. It continues to be used in global struggles for human rights.

This selection continues a survey of songs of the Civil Rights era, tied to the opening of the Rev. Martin L. King, Jr. memorial. At the March on Washington in 1963, the song echoed over the Lincoln Memorial.

Here’s folksinger Joan Baez.

By  |  11:00 AM ET, 08/28/2011

Tags:  music of the movement

Read what others are saying

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company