We Shall Overcome History
The True History of, “WE SHALL OVERCOME”
FIGHTING LIES AND INJUSTICE WITH FACTS
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20 Facts of “We Shall Overcome”
The only basis for consideration of Tindley’s hymn as the song from which, We Shall Overcome was derived are its lyrics. However similar to We Shall Overcome they may be, Louise Shropshire’s lyrics are much more similar to We Shall Overcome. In addition, Louise Shropshire’s, “If My Jesus Wills” is substantially more similar to, “We Shall Overcome” rhythmically, harmonically and musically.
Right to Prepare Derivative Works
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“We Shall Overcome, We Shall Overcome,
We Shall Overcome Someday– Oh
Deep In My Heart, I Do Believe,
We Shall Overcome Someday”.
The NMPA is arguably the most powerful music publishing lobbying organization in the world and represents the top five music publishing companies; Sony/ATV, Universal, BMG, Warner/ Chappell and Kobalt. Collectively these industry giants control approximately 11 million songs worldwide. According to, OpenSecrets.org, In 2015, the NMPA spent 715,000 on their US lobbying efforts.
The founder of The Richmond Organization, Howie Richmond, was also the co-founder of the, Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame (SHOF). As of April 2016, The SHOF website lists Seeger as an SHOF inductee but also states:
“Pete Seeger has always been a socially conscious songwriter. Inspired by the movement, Seeger wrote, We Shall Overcome based on an old spiritual.”
“There are many other songs associated with the Civil Rights Movement which you could use in place of We Shall Overcome if circumstances are such that you cannot afford to pay appropriate license fees. -Larry Richmond”
In the end, so as not to endanger the film’s release with the threat of a potential lawsuit, the producers of LDTB payed $15,000 under protest, for a three second clip of We Shall Overcome. –A clip which, for all intents and purposes, is indiscernible in the film. Not exactly ‘blood, sweat and tears’.
So then, if neither Ludlow Music, Inc., The Richmond Organization, Pete Seeger, Guy Carawan, Frank Hamilton or Zilphia Horton own, We Shall Overcome, who DOES?
Although hidden for half a century, the evidence has now been unearthed and it is overwhelmingly and abundantly clear. We Shall Overcome is not now, nor has it ever been the exclusive property of Ludlow Music, Inc., The Richmond Organization, Pete Seeger, Guy Carawan, Frank Hamilton or Zilphia Horton. We Shall Overcome belongs in the Public Domain for all the world to sing, record, publish and perform without cost.
So then, if not Pete Seeger, Guy Carawan, Frank Hamilton or Zilphia Horton, who is the original author of, We Shall Overcome?
is the original author of,
We Shall Overcome.
In May of 2013, in a written response to a legal challenge of their copyright of We Shall Overcome by the family of Louise Shropshire, Paul Licalsi–attorney for The Richmond Organization wrote the following:
‘We Will Overcome’ [as taught to Pete Seeger by Zilphia Horton in 1947] is the precursor of ‘We Shall Overcome’ which was copyrighted in 1960.”
In conducting research for his book, We Shall Overcome: Sacred Song On The Devil’s Tongue, which describes in extraordinary detail just how the misappropriation of Louise Shropshire’s sacred hymn was carried out, author, Isaias Gamboa discovered a 1947 recording of Zilphia Horton (listed as one of the adapters of We Shall Overcome) singing a song she called, “We Will Overcome”.
Upon immediately recognizing the striking resemblance to Louise Shropshire’s hymn, “If My Jesus Wills” (composed between,1932 and 1942) and Horton’s performance of, “We Will Overcome”, Gamboa sent the recording and sheet music to two independent musicologists. He then, independently asked each of the experts to transcribe the recording of Horton’s, “We Will Overcome” (WWO), then conduct a musicological comparison between the WWO transcription and the US Copyright Office deposit Copy of Louise Shropshire’s, “If My Jesus Wills”.
The reports and subsequent conclusions, drawn by both experts leave no doubt that Louise Shropshire is the previously unrecognized, “original author” of We Shall Overcome. The results affirm that Shropshire’s sacred hymn, “If My Jesus Wills” aka “I’ll Overcome”–composed between 1932 and 1942 and copyrighted in 1954, is the direct precedent to “We Will Overcome” as sung by Zilphia Horton in 1947.
2. Zilphia Horton’s 1947 recording of “We Will Overcome”.
3. Transcription of Zilphia Horton;s 1947 recording of, “We Will Overcome”.
4. Douglass Easterling’s musicological comparison of Zilphia Horton’s 1947 recording of “We Will Overcome” and the U.S. Library of Congress deposit copy of Louise Shropshire’s, If My Jesus Wills.
5. Stephen Goukas’ musicological comparison of Zilphia Horton’s 1947 recording of “We Will Overcome” and the U.S. Library of Congress deposit copy of Louise Shropshire’s, If My Jesus Wills.
6. U.S. Library of Congress deposit copy of Louise Shropshire’s, If My Jesus Wills.
7. Performance by the Azuza Pacific University Gospel Choir of Louise Shropshire’s, “If My Jesus Wills” aka “I’ll Overcome”
8. Performance by former members of Louise Shropshire’s, “Rosebud Choir” Gospel Choir singing the “Morning Star” arrangement of, “If My Jesus Wills” aka “I’ll Overcome”.
9. Performance by former members of an African-American mass choir singing a traditional arrangement of, “If My Jesus Wills” aka “I’ll Overcome”.
Former General Manager of, The Richmond Organization, Al Brackman confirms that, “I’ll Overcome Someday” by Charles. A. Tindley is NOT the basis for, “We Shall Overcome”
“We Will Overcome” Transcription from 1947 Zilphia Horton recording
Easterling Musicological Report
Goukas Musicological Report
If My Jesus Wills aka “I’ll Overcome” / Written by Louise Shropshire
Louise Shropshire’s “If My Jesus Wills”
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