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8 Songs That Embody the Struggle of Black People Worldwide

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‘A Change is Gonna Come’ – Sam Cooke

A Change is Gonna Come by singer-songwriter Sam Cooke was released on Dec. 22, 1964.  It addresses the ongoing racial struggle of African-Americans and specifically Cooke’s own experience when he was turned away from a whites-only motel in Louisiana.

The song became an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement and was voted No. 12 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was also selected by National Public Radio as one of the most important songs ever recorded, and in 2007 was selected for the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress.

Notable artists who have covered the song include Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Otis Redding, Arcade Fire, Patti LaBelle and Beyonce. The song has been used in recent years as a theme for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and tenure. Beyonce performed it in 2013  during The Sound of Change Live concert in support of equality for all, and as a tribute to the revival of Detroit after the city filed for bankruptcy.

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‘We Shall Overcome’ – Peter Seeger

The protest song, We Shall Overcome was written by Peter Seeger and published in 1960 and became a key anthem of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. The song gained popularity through the Highland Folk School of Monteagle, Tennessee, an adult education school that trained union organizers.

In August 1963, folk singer Joan Baez led a crowd of 300,000 in singing We Shall Overcome at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington.

President Lyndon Johnson used the phrase “We shall overcome” following the 1965  “Bloody Sunday” attack on civil rights demonstrators during the Selma to Montgomery march.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. repeated the words “We shall overcome”  during his final sermon delivered in Memphis, Tennessee, on Sunday, March 31, 1968, four days before his assassination.

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