Resounding from the Goddard Chapel carillon throughout the month of February is one of the great resistance songs of our era, “We Shall Overcome.” A defining anthem of the African-American Civil Rights movement, the modern version of this gospel hymn began to seep into consciousness during a 1945 tobacco workers’ strike, in Charleston, S.C. Disseminated by many over the coming years, including folk singer Pete Seeger, the song was subsequently included in the program of the famous 1963 March on Washington. Two years later, President Johnson incorporated the lyrics from the hymn into a transformative address to Congress (March 15, 1965), delivered following the violent “Bloody Sunday” attacks in Alabama. In the years since, the song has been adapted by anti-Communist movements during the Cold War, has been used to protest Israeli blockades in Gaza, and was cited by NPR as one of the most important American songs of the 20th century. As we celebrate Black History month and witness countless displays of resistance, throughout our country and world, in our own time, this familiar anthem seems as timely today as ever.
To hear a thorough NPR segment on the history and importance of this song, please visit here.