Guy Carawan singing “We Shall Overcome”
with protesters at Virginia State University in 1960.
Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos
Guy Carawan Dies at 87; Taught a Generation to Overcome, in Song
By MARGALIT FOX NYT MAY 7, 2015
Guy Hughes Carawan Jr. 1927-2015
On an April night in 1960,
Guy Carawan stood
before a group of black students
in Raleigh, N.C.,
and sang a little-known folk song.
With that single stroke,
he created an anthem
that would echo into history,
sung at the Selma-to-Montgomery
marches of 1965,
in apartheid-era South Africa,
in international demonstrations
in support of the Tiananmen Square protesters,
at the dismantled Berlin Wall and beyond.
The song was
“We Shall Overcome.”
a white folk singer and folklorist (...),
did not write “We Shall Overcome,”
nor did he claim to.
The song, variously a religious piece,
a labor anthem and a hymn of protest,
had woven in and out
of American oral tradition for centuries,
embodying the country’s twinned history
of faith and struggle.
it was further polished
by professional songwriters.
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