Decades after singing We Shall Overcome at numerous mass meetings, I gradually started giving more thought to the song’s title, which was and is both inspirational and aspirational. It evoked feelings of both hope and expectation. In particular, I started giving thought to the first two words – We Shall. In doing so, I came to the following conclusions. “We” means just that – the collective, the group, not the individual. The protest version of the song used first person plur
In 2013, I was privileged to be interviewed for the PBS documentary, Freedom Summer, which chronicled the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi during the summer of 1964. At one point during the interview, Stanley Nelson, the talented writer, producer, and director of the film, asked me about mass meetings. In an instant, multiple images of mass meetings at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church flashed through my mind from 50 years earlier. My responses went something like this.