Now so familiar as to risk seeming clichéd, “We Shall Overcome” was the paramount song of the civil rights movement. “Deep in my heart, I do believe that we shall overcome some day”: the song spoke to a generation’s idealism, solidarity, and optimism in the transcendence of injustice. It is now practically lost to memory that the song enjoyed an equal vitality within the early New Left. We Shall Overcome was the official songbook title of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a group more important than the better-known Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in generating sixties New Left radicalism. When Tom Hayden, at age eighteen, traveled south from Michigan in 1961 to observe SNCC’s efforts to register black voters in Mississippi, he returned to write the SDS pamphlet Revolution in Mississippi, which, issued in the same year as The Port Huron Statement, reproduced all the words to “We Shall Overcome” on its title page.


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pp. 85-91
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