We Shall Overcome

“We Shall Overcome” became super popular in 1963 when Joan Baez recorded it and played it during several civil rights marches, but its origins are much older. It probably...

We Shall Overcome” became super popular in 1963 when Joan Baez recorded it and played it during several civil rights marches, but its origins are much older. It probably derives from a gospel song from 1903 by Philadelphia reverend Charles Tindley and with the years passing, the lyrics have had several changes until Pete Seeger came across it and made it the anthem of the African-American Civil Rights Movement.

The song has very simple but at the same time extremely powerful lyrics. The repetition of the verses underline the positivity of the words, no wonder that the song has been used worldwide for different types of protests. A Spanish version was sung by farm workers in the United States during the grape boycotts of the late 60s, it also traveled all the way to South Africa to be used by the Anti-Apartheid Movement. From 1980s it even has a very popular translation in Hindi “Hum Honge Kaamyab / Ek Din”. In February 2010 Joan Baez performed “We Shall Overcome” at the White House in front of U.S. President Barack Obama, at a celebration of music from the Civil Rights Era.

We Shall Overcome” is not only a message of hope, it represents the certainty of a better future, where everybody will have equal rights and opportunities, no matter what race or social and economic background they come from. The fact that it is so easy to relate to the song is one of its many strengths, in fact one can address its message to different aspects of one’s life: overcome a challenge, having someone by your side that supports and respects you, not being afraid, living in peace, these are all dreams people should aim at, and we hope they do.

Lyrics

We shall overcome,
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

We’ll walk hand in hand,
We’ll walk hand in hand,
We’ll walk hand in hand, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,

We shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,

We shall all be free,
We shall all be free,
We shall all be free, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,

We are not afraid,
We are not afraid,
We are not afraid, TODAY

Oh, deep in my heart,

We shall overcome,
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

We Shall Overcome
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Sounds from the Bucket
Francesca Aloisio

Francesca is both an International Relations graduate and a dancer living in Rome. She is particularly interested in international issues, intercultural learning and culture sharing, as well as music and arts. She is currently a consultant for the UN agency IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) in the communication division.
2 Comments on this post.
  • Roger Hawcroft
    Roger Hawcroft
    30 May 2015 at 2:09 am
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    This piece seems particularly apposite given the recent human rights award made to Joan Baez by Amnesty International. Joan Baez has been a leading figure in the civil rights movement in the United States over the last 50 years and joined Amnesty International in 1971. She sings so beautifully that even gibberish would probably sound good – indeed on one of her albums she has a song to which the only lyrics are “dee dah” – and it’s magic.

    As long as there are such people as Joan Baez then there will be hope that “We shall overcome” – and the World will be rid of injustice and inequity. Taking nothing away from others who have given so much to bring peace, freedom and compassion to the World’s peoples, Joan is someone who -though we’ve never met and probably never will – has sustained me since my teenage years and my life would have been bleaker without her commitment and her voice in it.

  • WiB Team
    WiB Team
    1 June 2015 at 2:58 pm
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    Well said Roger!

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