We Shall Not Be Moved (Labor Version)

TITLE: We Shall Not Be Moved
AUTHOR: Hymn by Alfred H. Ackley, modified by the labor movement in the 1930s.
CATEGORY: Public Domain, Debated
KEYWORDS: labor-movement, nonballad, protest
EARLIEST DATE: 1955 (recording, Pete Seeger)
HISTORICAL REFERENCES: Union Coal Mine Strike in West Virginia, 1931.

labor-43735_188x188“One of the most popular union songs, “We Shall Not Be Moved,” is a direct descendant of the hymn “I Shall Not Be Moved”. . . .In 1931, striking coal miners (black and white) in the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia, changed “I shall not be moved” to “we shall not be moved”. . . . Musically the line from the church to the union hall in the South is short and direct.” (Joe Glazer in Labor’s Troubadour (Music in American Life)

Also, Woody Guthrie, wrote in Bound for Glory (Plume), about singing it with Cisco Houston on Dec. 7, 1941, to break up a possible lynching of Japanese-Americans after the attack that day on Pearl Harbor. 

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BONUS YOUTUBE VIDEO:Twin Cities Labor Chorus

We Shall Not Be Moved

The Union is behind us, we shall not be moved.
The Union is behind us, we shall not be moved.
Just like a tree that’s standing by the water,
We shall not be moved.

We’re not afraid of gun thugs, we shall not be moved.
We’re not afraid of gun thugs, we shall not be moved.
Just like a tree that’s standing by the water,
We shall not be moved.

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

We’re fighting for our children, we shall not be moved.
We’re fighting for our children, we shall not be moved.
Just like a tree that’s standing by the water,
We shall not be moved.

SOURCES:

  • 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

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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