Emily Langer, THE WASHINGTON POST
(The Washington Post) — The tempo marking for “We Shall Overcome” reads “moderately slow with determination.” Slowly but with determination — and with help from folk musician Guy Carawan — is how that song was transformed from age-old spiritual to labor protest music to the anthem of the civil rights movement.
Mr. Carawan, who died May 2 at 87, served for decades as a leader of what is now the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, Tenn., a gathering place for social-justice activists whose visitors over the years included Rosa Parks and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Often traveling with a bulky recorder, Mr. Carawan spent much of his life collecting and preserving folk songs so that they would not be lost in the rush of time. “We Shall Overcome,” with its promise of deliverance over struggle, was only one of those numbers. But few, if any, others matched its enduring resonance.