Louise Shropshire

Writer and Composer of We Shall Overcome

Sometime between 1932 and 1942, an African American woman named Louise Shropshire – granddaughter of slaves – authored and published a sacred hymn entitled, “If My Jesus Wills,” more commonly known as “I Will Overcome,” which she had copyrighted in 1954.

Unbeknownst to Mrs. Shropshire, in 1960 and again in 1963, Pete Seeger and four other folk singers copyrighted “ We Shall Overcome” as a derivative work, claiming no known original author.

Mrs. Shropshire – a close friend of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — loaned her inspirational words to him at his request for use during the African American Civil Rights Movement. Mrs. Shropshire felt great joy in knowing that her sacred song inspired people to civil justice and freedom. In 1993 on her deathbed, Mrs. Shropshire spoke her final words to her grandson, Robert A. Goins Shropshire, “Someday, somebody is gonna do something with all my music.”

A Resolution from Cincinnati Board of Education:
September 23, 2013


WHEREAS, Louise Shropshire (1913-1993), the granddaughter of slaves, was born Louise Jarrett on February 15, 1913 in Coffee County, Alabama; and

WHEREAS, Mrs. Shropshire and her family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1917, and resided in the 800 block of Fourth Street in the West End, in search of a better life than what they had endured as rural Alabama sharecroppers; and

WHEREAS, Louise Shropshire attended the Cincinnati Public School, Abigail Cutter Junior High formerly the School for Creative and Performing Arts, then the home of Old Woodward High School; and

WHEREAS, At a young age, Louise demonstrated a gift of music and composed many hymns that were significant to the Civil Rights Movement, a movement that was a fight for equality, ensuring that the rights of all people are equally protected by the law, including the rights of minorities; and

WHEREAS, Louise’s composer talents were coupled with her choir director skills that awarded her the position of directing the mass choir of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses convention and performing with her family singing group at the convention; and

WHEREAS, Mrs. Shropshire’s gift, love for music and entrepreneurial spirit carried over into her owning a music store called You Name It Sound Shop, and launching, Shropshire Records—her own record label; and

WHEREAS, sometime between 1932 and 1942, Mrs. Shropshire wrote If My Jesus Wills, the national hymn of the non-violent civil rights movement, and copyrighted the song in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1954 and;

WHEREAS, in 1960 folk singers Guy Carawan, Frank Hamilton, Myles Horton, Zilphia Horton, and Pete Seeger registered a copyright for We Shall Overcome as a derivative work without accrediting the work to Mrs. Shropshire; and

WHEREAS, “I’ll Overcome, I’ll Overcome, I’ll Overcome Someday, If My Jesus Wills, I Do Believe, I’ll Overcome Someday,” are the lyrics to If My Jesus Wills; and

WHEREAS, lyrics to We Shall Overcome are: “We Shall Overcome, We Shall Overcome, We Shall Overcome Someday, Deep in My Heart, I Do Believe, We Shall Overcome Someday;” and

WHEREAS, those lyrics, through copyrights and musical specialists, confirm that We Shall Overcome was derived through those works of If My Jesus Wills and inspired one of the greatest freedom movements in U.S. history, the most powerful song of the 20th Century, and was used first as a protest song in 1945, according to the United States Library of Congress; and

WHEREAS, the School for Creative and Performing Arts Orchestra will be performing the Battle Hymn of the Republic at An Evening of Hope, The Life and Legacy of Louise Shropshire program, on September 27, 2013, at the Inspirational Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that on September 23, 2013, the Cincinnati Board of Education commemorates the musical contributions of Louise Shropshire to the American Civil Rights Movement; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Cincinnati Public School District recognizes the importance of the arts, and the significant impact of the song, We Shall Overcome, and how those lyrics continue to give strength to many.

Eileen Cooper Reed, President
Alexander P. Kuhns, Vice President
Melanie Bates
Eve Bolton
Catherine D. Ingram
A. Chris Nelms
Vanessa Y. White

Ms. Ingram moved and Mr. Kuhns seconded the motion that The Resolution Commemorating The Musical Contribution Of Louise Shropshire To The American Civil Rights Movement be approved.

Ayes: Bates, Ingram, Kuhns, Nelms, President Cooper Reed (5)
Noes: None

President Cooper Reed declared the motion carried.

See original here on page 563:


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