Songs of Protest & Hope

Protest/rally songs are a useful tool for communicating a movement’s message, motivating and energizing a crowd, and demonstrating unity. The best ones are pretty simple & easy to pick up on. Here are a few we can use for upcoming actions such as the One Resistance Inauguration Day Protest March or the Women’s March. Print out your own copy!

Some history: the melody is currently best known as a favorite Sunday school song, but the original was composed by labor organizer Joe Hill for his 1913 song, Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!, which was in turn based on a popular Civil War song used by both sides. You can hear the song on YouTube.
Or search “Joe Hill – Tramp Tramp Tramp”.

These lyrics were written by an IndivisibleATX member.

We are here to stand for freedom, to preserve democracy
From each corner of the land, indivisible we stand
As we fight for justice, truth, and liberty.

We are here to stand for freedom, to preserve democracy
We will not stand quiet by as our rights and freedoms die
Or submit to an unjust authority. (Alt. lyric: or be governed by a foreign entity)

We are here to stand for freedom, to preserve democracy
We are marching hand in hand, voices raised, we make our stand
For America, from sea to shining sea!

Hear it here.

We shall not, we shall not be moved
We shall not, we shall not be moved
Just like a tree that’s standing by the water.
We shall not be moved.

The song leader replaces “We shall not be moved” with other lyrics, echoed by the group, such as “We’re brothers & sisters, we shall not be moved”; “We want health care, we shall not be moved”; “Gay, straight, bi or trans, we shall not be moved”; “Equal rights for women, we shall not be moved”; “We say black lives matter, we shall not be moved”, etc.

The origin of this classic civil rights protest song is unclear; though it may have roots in the cotton and tobacco fields of the antebellum South, which in turn influenced a popular hymn of the day. It is said to have been used by Lucille Simmons in 1945 in a South Carolina tobacco worker’s strike. It was adopted for the Civil Rights Movement by folk singers such as Guy Carawan, Joan Baez, and Pete Seeger, and this is the version most people know now. You can hear it here, or or search “We shall overcome”.

We shall overcome, we shall overcome
We shall overcome some day
Deep in my heart, I do believe
We shall overcome some day.

(The song continues with the leader singing additional lyrics in the place of “we shall overcome”, echoed by the group. Example: “We shall live in peace; we’ll walk hand in hand; we won’t be afraid; we’ll stand for each other”; etc.)

Words and music by Woodie Guthrie
This classic song is under copyright, but you can hear it here and find a full copy of the lyrics here.

Peter Seeger & Lee Hays
Hear it here.

I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning
I’d hammer in the evening. All over this land!
I’d hammer out danger, I’d hammer out a warning,
I’d hammer out love between my brother & my sister
All over this land.

If I had a bell, I’d ring it in the morning, etc.
If I had a song, I’d sing it in the morning, etc.

Well I got a hammer and I got a bell
And I got a song to sing all over this land
It’s the hammer of justice, it’s the bell of freedom
It’s a song about love between my brothers and my sisters all over this land

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