Wouldn’t it be nice if all of the annals in history could be corrected? Children world wide are often taught the wrong information about the actual occurrences surrounding historical and contemporary events, but in Ohio a movement to give credit to the actual songwriter who created the infamous Civil Rights Movement anthem “We Shall Overcome”, may finally get her just dues. Kudos to Mrs. Louise Shropshire for her unsung contribution to not only a movement but the world’s registry of composed praise and worship.
According to the Cincinnati Herald:
A sacred song of determination and hope that became the anthem of the non-violent Civil Rights Movement in the United States, and which is sung by oppressed people around the world, had its origins in Cincinnati. The song was prominently heard last weekend at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Until now, the name of the original composer of this famed African American Gospel song, “We Shall Overcome,” that represents a battle cry for freedom, dignity and equality, had been lost in secular adaptations. White folk singers in the drug-crazed Sixties misappropriated the song, removed the spiritual references, and adapted it as secular song, making substantial income from it. These White folk singers claimed t o have adapted their version from a Negro Spiritual of “unknown’’ origins, unlawfully claiming legal rights to this iconic song.
However, due to four years of research by Costa Rican-born and Los Angeles music producer Isaias Gamboa, the original composer of “We Shall Overcome’’ has been identified as the late Cincinnati Gospel music composer and singer Louise Shropshire.
Gamboa’s story has been published in the recently released book, “We Shall Overcome: Sacred Song on the Devil’s Tongue.’’ His book provides a history of the song, Mrs. Shropshire’s life, the exploitation of Blacks in America, the Black struggle to gain equality, Mrs. Shropshire’s authorship and ownership of the song, and what is owed her and African Americans. “My book reveals that Shropshire’s sacred composition, “If My Jesus Wills,’’ was in fact hijacked for profit, and her name whited- out from the pages of history,’’ Gamboa said.
His research resulted in 80 filmed hours of interviews that is being made into a documentary film. He is also working on a national initiative; the U.S. African American Restoration Act”, whereby the U.S. Government would provide restorations to African Americans by financing Black students’ post-secondary education, the true “game-changer,’’ he says that will bring about equality in America
This entire scenario causes one to question how many other songs, poems, and other cultural artifacts have been ‘stolen’ prior to songwriter protections? Do current protections need to be strengthened to ensure that an artists’ gifts are not profited upon?
In recent news, Robin Thicke was accused of using samples from Marvin Gaye without consent. The family of the late great Gaye didn’t win the lawsuit.