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We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song
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We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  341 ratings  ·  89 reviews
It only takes a few words to create change. It only takes a few people to believe that change is possible. And when those people sing out, they can change the world. "We Shall Overcome" is one of their songs. From the song's roots in America's era of slavery through to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and today, "We Shall Overcome" has come to represent the fight for ...more
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published December 17th 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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Average rating 4.37  · 
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 ·  341 ratings  ·  89 reviews

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While as a story in and of itself Debbie Levy's We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song (about how We Shall Overcome became one of the main anthems of the American Civil Rights Movement) is indeed inspirational and yes, also features a most essential and uplifting message that one can often achieve more lasting and positive societal changes by using non violent methods of protest (including making use of the power of song, especially if a song has like We Shall Overcome in its lyrics both a ...more
Jul 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
This is less a comment on the book, which is perfectly fine, and more a comment on the persistence of writers, especially writers writing for young children, that the election of Obama somehow marks the end of the United States -- our -- struggle against racial injustice. It didn't. It was never going to go (though God, I wish it had.) This is not entirely fair to this particular book, which does include a final page that people still sing "We Shall Overcome" as a declaration of humanity against ...more
Amy Rae
To the surprise of no one, I do like presenting children with music history whenever possible, especially when it's the history of popular music. We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song is fairly serviceable; I think the illustrations are pretty, and I like that the different iterations of the lyrics are highlighted in the text.

There were two things I didn't care so much for. First, the illustrations for the page talking about how the song has spread to numerous other countries appear to feature
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Honest and beautiful, it made me cry like a baby. I loved its willingness to acknowledge the components of racism explicitly and I appreciated the time line in the back, alongside a bibliography and a suggested reading list.
Tammi Peterman
1. Text to World: The text explores the realities of the plight of African American since the time of slavery. It shows that while people may look different we are all humans capable of acquiring the skills needed to be productive citizens. It reminds you not to judge based on color but to embrace peoples differences for the community.

2. The piece begins in slavery times as slaves sang "to soothe the hurt, to fight the cruelty" and moves quickly through the Civil War to the mid-20th century,
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviews
The song “We Shall Overcome” is almost synonymous with the unquenchable human spirit for freedom, liberty and justice. Down through the ages, it has inspired and motivated teeming millions and was a centerpiece in almost all social justice movements. Its relevance and power to change lives has not diminished a bit, and remains as strong and vibrant today as it was when first sung. It has become a worldwide anthem.

Debbie Levy, who authored many meaningful and inspiring books like The Year of
Jean Hussey-Stone
Oct 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Music is a strong, emotional bond for most people and is ever present in this story about the song, "We Shall Overcome." This book is about a song that has brought people together through its strong, courageous, and powerful words. It's roots began in the time of slavery but the actual song was brought from the church to the people of America during the Civil Rights Movement. It was then carried across the oceans to other countries where people were fighting for a better life. It became a song ...more
Words and music have the power to change lives, and this picture book gives its much-deserved due to "We Shall Overcome," the song that came to be associated with the civil rights movement. The author provides historical context for the song as well as describing how it inspired protesters in this country and others to keep the faith and keep marching and protesting. The vibrant illustrations that seem to based on collages, highlight moments when the song assumed importance such as during the ...more
Edward Sullivan
The origins of the song and how it became an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement and a centerpiece in other social justice movements.
tracy lou
Mar 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
My neoliberal heart loves this, but my brain picks it apart. I would definitely classify this as an Obama book. That is probably a spoiler.
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: d-songs
Awards: None
Grade level: K-3
Summary: Each pages has song lyrics and historical information (it’s like a 3 in 1 book!). Learn about slavery and how people lived during this challenging time in American History.
My Review: I love how this book both has the song lyrics and a story that teaches about slavery. Music unites people together and can empower them.
In Class: This book can be used during Black History Month and even in the general music class. Students can learn to sing We Shall Overcome
Missy Matula
A few words can create change and in this book, it exemplifies how a song can become a representation for equality. The artwork was captivating and the portraits of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama were beautiful. What an amazing book to share with all students especially African American students who are young and entering a world where their equality has been fought for and continues to be. It's important for young readers to be proud of where they came from, their ancestors and their ...more
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of the Civil Rights movement through history all the way up to President Obama. It touches on events from the Civil War, protests at lunch counters, and the Voting Rights Act.
I chose this book because it is such an important message and the book is written in kid friendly language that also shares a beautiful song.
This historical fiction book is great for grades 1-3, but could be used many years beyond.
This book could be used in the classroom
Rachael Fricke
The story of a song. The words of the song "We Shall Overcome" flow through the pages and connect with the story line. From fighting for change, to working for change, to seeing change happen. The story and the song send a message to the reader that change can happen, and we will overcome. In a world where we are still fighting racial injustices, this book gives hope for generations that one day, We Shall Overcome. A wonderful story, one we've all heard before, but told in a children's picture ...more
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I like how this book went straight to the point. I like how it talked about the past and present. I really enjoyed how it got the message out that even after the Civil Rights, black people were still being mistreated. I also liked how they explained that although many white people treated black people poorly, there were white people who would protest with them. I also liked that they included President Barack Obama. This helped show how far we had come as a country. Definitely would use in my ...more
Dave Lester
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s-books
A beautifully illustrated and written children's book centering around the song "We Shall Overcome" through the trials and tribulations faced by African-Americans in America. Very beneficial reading this to my kids and introducing them to the evils of slavery and oppression. The book is bold and communicates some of the ugly history but does not go into graphic detail. The ending of the book has a historical timeline of when the song has been sung as an anthem of hope during some of the bleakest ...more
Claire DM
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Beautiful and whimsical, yet serious drawings, wonderful prose. Great history that pulls no punches, could do a better job with the “things are all better now” narrative as it relates to the struggle for the African American struggle for equality. But overall an more honest age appropriate book on race relations for young children, with the story told thru the journey of the song We shall Overcome.
Tiffany Brown
This book has a strong message. I feel, in the society we live in today, that is important. So many children need to experience this book. The song is something that has been a part of history and this paid a great tribute to that history. Having an African American child, there needs to be more books that promote strength. There is more to the African American people than slavery. I would have this book in my personal library.
Amanda Vander hyde
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book uses a song that is associated with Civil Rights, and it follows the history of African Americans in this country through the Civil Rights Movement to today. It is an important story for children because it looks at the past and how far we have come as a country. It is also important to help recognize that we still have a ways to go, and this book help shows that. It is just a great story that empowers the African American community and the illustrations help showcase this journey ...more
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is about African Americans overcoming the hardships they had to deal with during segregation. It is in song saying "we shall overcoming" over and over again, through everything they had to endure.

The media here seems to be water color.

I would like to teach this book all singing the song together as a class.
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lia-s-book-log
Lia's review: "I really like this book! It is so great. It says how some people are really mean to each other because they have different skin colors, but that is not nice at all. Everybody has different skin, but we should all be nice to everyone because it doesn't matter about your skin. Also, I really love this song. We learned it in music class."
Jo Oehrlein
Jun 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
A book in 3 parts.

The first two parts are interwoven -- there's the history of the song, but there are verses to the song on each page (almost impossible to read without singing!).

It's amazing to me how powerful this song has been across time and different situations.

The last part of the book is a timeline that gives more details and shows how the song grew to what it is today.
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Historical fiction. 2013. This book is about a song associated with the Civil Rights Movement. The pictures present the words of the song, showing what it was slaves had to overcome. Through music, this song in particular, people of color were able to unite and fight for their freedom. Racism and slavery are both addressed. This a must read in the classroom.
ashley folman
The book We Shall Overcome, is an excellent book and I will be using it in the future. This book has the life lesson of teaching ethnicity, and freedom all around the world. The pictures also give the students a visual because most kids that age don't understand what slavery and the civil war even was. This book is recommended for the elementary age.
Francesca Justine
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is really impactful for young readers. It gives them the history while including the song we shall overcome. The illustrations are beautiful and bring the words to life. At the end of the book they include real time lines off all the events that happened which was really nice to see.
Hannah Lindsay
The pictures in this book were beautiful and the story line is real and relevant. This book covers literature, history, and music all in one. It would be a great research tool for young students or a great real aloud for older students learning about the civil rights movement.
Ashley Biles
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s-shelf
Levy, D. Ill: Brantley-Newton, V. (2013) We shall overcome: The story of a song. New York: Jump At The Sun.

This is a story about how a song of freedom was transformed and shaped by the people singing it. And how it eventually being a slogan for peace and freedom from slavery.
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Grades K-5
Nice illustrations and story of how the title song evolved and its basic history. Highly recommend for elementary kids.
Anna Smithberger
Feb 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Long for a storytime, but all books about civil rights are too long for storytime. So I'm going to show the illustrations along with the song. Which I think will work very well.
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great book about an amazing song. The illustrations and story are excellent. I like the timeline after the story.
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