Review: We Shall Overcome Is A Lyrical Journey About Freedom, Justice

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“Oh deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome someday.” Have you ever heard that inspiring song? For years, black people and others have sung it, while fighting for freedom and equality.

Debbie Levy’s We Shall Overcome: A Story of A Song will not only teach you about the history of the song, but also how much black people have overcome.

This book rewinds to slavery times, each page showing how black people got stronger, fighting back against the unfair ways people treated them. I thought it was so cool that each page has a few lyrics of the “We Shall Overcome” song, so you can see how the lyrics changed from “I’ll be alright” in the 1800s when black people were forced to do free labor on plantations to “I will overcome” in 1900 when it became popular in black churches, all the way to “WE shall overcome” in 1957 when Martin Luther King, Jr. was leading protests for civil rights.

I first read this book in first grade around the time I was learning about one of my heroes, Ruby Bridges. I mostly thought it was cool to see the lyrics and I loved the illustrations. Reading it again, five years later, I’m really upset to see how some people still treat black people poorly, as if black lives don’t matter. That’s why people today still are marching and protesting for equality and justice.

I still LOVE the illustrations by Vanessa Brantley-Newton because they are so vibrant and perfect for the book! (check out my interview with the amazing artist)

This book is really good history lesson! One thing I learned is “We Shall Overcome” became a song known all around the world. People in different countries, from South Africa to India, to Czechoslovakia and China and more, have sung their versions of it, while fighting for equality.

I rate it four out of four roses!


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