The Inspiring Force Of 'We Shall Overcome' : NPR

Pete Seeger, singing We Shall Overcome.

An important part of the civil rights movement was the freedom songs. King called them the “soul of the movement,” as old as the history of the African-American in the U.S. There were songs of sorrow, the shouts for joy, the battle hymns, and the anthems. Words like, “Woke Up This Morning with My Mind Stayed on Freedom” added hope to their determination that “We Shall Overcome someday.”

With this rich heritage from the past they were able to hope that God would help them work it out. “Through this music, the Negro is able to dip down into wells of a deeply pessimistic situation and danger-fraught circumstances and to bring forth a marvelous, sparkling, fluid optimism.” [1]

In the 1960’s those who listened to the radio—not only in America—became familiar with the words to “We Shall Overcome.” The song revealed a powerful passion that empowered all those who believe in overcoming injustice to feel as the blacks in America felt at the time of the civil rights movement.

All of us who believe that there are things wrong with the world and who want to bring justice to bear, could sing those words of hope, even now, and feel the power of them.

[1] The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., Page 178

This has been Part 56 of the Series A Life Worth Living. Read March on Washington, Part 57.