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Arts > Music > 20th, 21st century > USA > Folk, Folk Rock, Bluegrass, Country > Guy Hughes Carawan Jr.    1927-2015




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.”


Mr. Carawan,

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.


Over time,

it was further polished

by professional songwriters.














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USA > 20th century > 1940s-1970s > Civil rights era