'We Shall Overcome': The Theme Song of Civil Rights - Rolling Stone
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‘We Shall Overcome’: The Theme Song of Civil Rights

Follow the classic protest song’s history from the Fifties to today

Pete SeegerPete Seeger

AP Photo/Tennessee State Archives

Zilphia Horton was a musician and Civil Rights activist who is credited as being instrumental in transforming the hymn “We Shall Overcome” into one of the most well-known songs of the Civil Rights movement. Zilphia grew up in Arkansas, studied classical music, and taught songs to inspire cultural change at the Highlander Folk School. This 1959 photo provided by the Tennessee State Archives shows Pete Seeger performing at the Highlander Research and Education Center in Monteagle, Tennessee. The little school tucked away in the east Tennessee mountains may have faded from the public spotlight, but it was once at the center of the struggle for civil rights.


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