We Shall Not Be Moved (Civil Rights Version)

TITLE: We Shall Not Be Moved
AUTHOR: Alfred H. Ackley, modified by the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
CATEGORY: Public Domain, Debated
EARLIEST DATE: 1906 (Ackley, “Hymns for His Praise No. 2”)
KEYWORDS: freedom, protest, floatingverses, nonballad
HISTORICAL REFERENCE: Civil Rights Movement in the United States 1950s and 1960s.

119484“We Shall Not Be Moved” was first a hymn, “I Shall Not Be Moved” (1906) which morphed into a labor song, “We Shall Not Be Moved. (1931)  This example of the song morphing into one of the powerful civil rights songs was what was sung in Selma, Alabama, March of 1965. This version was sung by demonstrators who had gathered in the streets of Selma to demand the right to continue their protest march to Montgomery. Martin Luther King, Jr., was present at the demonstration. “Jim Clark” refers to the notoriously abusive sheriff of Selma. 

“I think what was so unique about the Civil Rights Movement,—particularly in the South—was the role of the songs. People today ask: ‘How could you sing ‘we love everybody.’ How could you sing ‘we love state troopers? What, were you crazy?’ And they don’t realize that even that song, ’I love George Wallace,’ was sung at the utmost of defiance, the utmost of anger and rage. And yet at the same time, the songs not only expressed anger and rage and defiance, but they were in a way a pledge of solidarity and unity between us. When Wazir says we would sing ́ ́we are not alone, hand in hand together, we are not afraid, we’ll never turn back, before I be a slave I’ll be buried in my grave.“ If you sing your ideology, it is so much more powerful than if you write it in position papers.” (Sharp, Gene. The Politics of Nonviolent Action. Part Three. 647.)

Mary King, a former civil rights activist, also commented on the songs of the movement,

“The singing of the black people was an integral part of the movement that cannot be forgotten to anyone who participated. … Because of the grandeur of congregational singing in black culture, there has never been a protest movement as rich in song as was the civil rights movement. The outpouring of the freedom songs went to the core of the struggle and expresses, as nothing else was able, the hope, belief, desire, passion, dreams, and anguish of the conflict.” (King, Mary. Freedom Song. 92)

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We Shall Not Be Moved

Tell Mayor Smitherman, we shall not be moved
Tell Mayor Smitherman, we shall not be moved
Just like a tree that’s standing by the water,
We shall not be moved.

All the state troopers, we shall not be moved
All the state troopers, we shall not be moved
Just like a tree that’s standing by the water,
We shall not be moved.

Tell Governor Wallace, we shall not be moved
Tell Governor Wallace, we shall not be moved
Just like a tree that’s standing by the water,
We shall not be moved.

We love everybody, we shall not be moved
We love everybody, we shall not be moved
Just like a tree that’s standing by the water,
We shall not be moved.

Tell Jim Clark, Lord, we shall not be moved
Tell Jim Clark, Lord, we shall not be moved
Just like a tree that’s standing by the water,
We shall not be moved.

We shall not, we shall not be moved
We shall not, we shall not be moved
Just like a tree that’s standing by the water,
We shall not be moved.

SOURCES:

  • Traditional Ballad Index
  • Roud #9134
  • Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide to the Florence E. Brunnings Collection, Florence E. Brunnings, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London 1981—Amazon Books
  • Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music, Guthrie T. Meade, Jr. with Dick Spottswood and Douglas S. Meade, Southern Folklife Collection, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, NC 2002—Amazon Books

NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2013 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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