We Shall Overcome – Perfect Picture Book Friday

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Title: We Shall Overcome

Author: Debbie Levy

Illustrator: Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Publisher: Jump at The Sun Books, 2013

Ages: 4-8

Themes: song, equality, African Americans, slavery, freedom



I’ll be all right,
I’ll be all right,
I’ll be all right some day.


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 equality and freedom around the world.

Why I like this book:

Music is a strong, emotional bond for most people and underlines the 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. Its roots began in the time of slavery but the actual song was transferred from the church to the people of America during the Civil Rights Movement. It was later transported across the oceans to other countries where people were fighting for equality. It became a song people sang across the world to celebrate global protests against all kinds of injustice. At the election of President Obama, Americans of all ethnicities sang it in triumph of an African-American becoming president.

It demonstrates just how powerful words and a melody are; how they can evoke change through generations. This important book, lyrically written by Debbie Levy and illustrated with the collage-style art by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, pays tribute to the heroic spirit of the famous song that pervades American history.


Great addition to your Black History Month (which is every month) shelves.

The back matter includes a timeline of the song, touching East Germans, black South Africans, Bengalis, Czechs, and South Koreans. It also contains websites which contain recordings of the song. This title will fit very nicely in a civil rights unit or one about the power of words. 

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.


This entry was posted in Black history Month, Diverse Children's Books, Perfect Picture Book Friday and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to We Shall Overcome – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. What a beautiful share today. Songs are powerful, especially when they represent an important movement. Still relevant today!

  2. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    I’m thinking that if we could all stand in one place, breathe the same air, and sing songs like this, together, then perhaps we could find a way to stand together, work together, and live together in a peaceful, unified way. Making music together unites us at a visceral level. I don’t know. But this is surely a beautiful book, one that needs to be shared. Thank you!

  3. I had the joy of finding this book at my library not that long ago. This is a book that needs to be shared in schools. I’m glad you chose to share it on your blog.

  4. Great choice to start off the month celebrating Black History!

  5. Gabi Snyder says:

    Thank you for sharing this story about a powerful song and its many important journeys. This is an important book (and song) to share right now. I’ll check this out and recommend it to our school librarian.

  6. Lovely book. I remember this song well. Used to sing it in school. Thanks for sharing Joanna.

  7. Joanna, what a great book. Your review touched me and I can’t wait to read the book myself. Thank you.

  8. Thanks for sharing this title. It is new to me. I put it on my list. Looking forward to reading it.

  9. Barb says:

    Sounds like a book every teacher should have!

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