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Anthem of a Movement

“We Shall Overcome” has been often referred to as the unofficial anthem of the civil rights movement. The song was popularized by Pete Seeger, who is generally attributed as the person who changed the lyrics from “we will overcome” to “we shall overcome.” He was taught the song by Zilphia Horton, director of the Highlander Folk School, who had learned the song from workers on strike from the American Tobacco Company in Charleston, South Carolina. “We Shall Overcome” gained most of its popularity during the civil rights movement. As Martin Luther King Jr. put it, the song “really sticks with you”[1] and it continues to be used today in protest movements all over the world.

[1] Victor V. Bobetsky, We Shall Overcome: Essays on a Great American Song (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014).