🎶 We Shall Overcome 🎶 (4. Use in protest movements)

In August 1963, Joan Baez led a crowd of 300,000 in several verses taken from “We Shall Overcome” at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Even President Lyndon Johnson, himself a Southerner, used the phrase “we shall overcome” in a speech delivered after the violent attacks on Civil Rights demonstrators during the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama, led by Martin Luther King, where it had been taken up as a rally cry.
He said: “It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their struggle must be our cause, too, because it’s not just Negroes, but really, it’s all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”

Ten years earlier King had already noted that segregation had inflicted deep wounds not only on black people, but on the nation as a whole, and had added a tragic remark: “Many unconsciously wondered whether they actually deserved any better conditions. Their minds and their souls were so conditioned to the system of segregation that they submissively adjusted themselves to things as they were. This is the ultimate tragedy of segregation. It not only harms one physically, but injures one spiritually”.

In his nonviolent protest against injustice, he always tried to inculcate in his people a sense of dignity and self-respect. His appeals for non-violence had always been honoured by the Negroes, despite arrests and troubles of any kind, even the bombing of his home in 1956.

King at the Civil Rights March in Washington, D.C

Martin Luther King recited words from “We Shall Overcome” in his final sermon delivered in Memphis on 31 March 1968, four days before his death, the victim of an assassin’s bullet.
He had done so in a similar rousing sermon delivered in 1965 before an interfaith congregation at Temple Israel in Hollywood, California, while in his 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, he had delivered a seventeen-minute speech, later known as “I Have a Dream”, in which he had called for an end to racism.

Its most famous passage was toward the end, when he departed from his prepared text for a partly improvised peroration on the theme “I have a dream” where he described his dreams of freedom and equality arising from a land of slavery and hatred.
This was prompted by the famous African American gospel singer Mahalia Jackson who had shouted from the crowd, “Tell them about the dream, Martin.”

Mahalia Jackson used to sing “We Shall Overcome” at the meetings of the Civil Rights movement and its words echoed some days later in the singing of over fifty thousand people at King’s funeral.

Since its beginning, when the song was used to show that African Americans intended to overcome prejudice and segregation, it has been sung in a variety of protests worldwide, creating a sense of community and shared experience.

8 thoughts on “🎶 We Shall Overcome 🎶 (4. Use in protest movements)

  1. Luisa, your post so wonderfully remind us of this great song and also of people that came to take
    an honoured place in history. Joan Baes, Mahelia Jackson, how could you go wrong with singers like that.
    Martin Luther King’s famous ” I have a dream ” . I didn’t know of the strong speech by Lyndon Johnson.
    Thank you


    Liked by 4 people

  2. Bonjour Mon Amie LUISA

    Plusieurs personnes entrent dans nos vies
    Certaines pour y rester et d’autres ne font que passer
    Quoi qu’il en soit, elles resteront gravées dans nos mémoires
    Laissant une marque ou une cicatrice dans notre cœur ou une trace de leur passage

    Des portes se ferment, des cœurs se referment au fil des jours
    On ne sait jamais si c’est le hasard, le destin, la chance ou le malheur
    qui mettent ces personnes sur nos chemins
    On sait toujours ce qu’on perd, mais jamais ce qu’on gagne

    Mais le destin suit saroute
    Je te souhaite une excellente et une très bonne journée ou soirée

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Cara Luisa, quanti brividi…
    Io non c’ero anagraficamente ma negli anni ho cercato un solo motivo valido per cui certi avvenimenti abbiano avuto luogo…
    Da adulta e credente ho capito – ma non giustificato – il senso della Croce anche in tutto questo.
    Non ho risposte a tanti orrori, solo intuizioni a volte suggerite da dentro, tanto da farmi perdere traccia della rabbia.
    Ciò nonostante la memoria deve perseverare per insegnare.
    Buona domenica!
    Vicky 🌈

    Liked by 2 people

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