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We Shall Not Be Moved/No nos moverán

We Shall Not Be Moved/No nos moverán: Biography of a Song of Struggle OPEN ACCESS

David Spener
Copyright Date: 2016
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 166
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  • Book Info
    We Shall Not Be Moved/No nos moverán
    Book Description:

    In this book, the author argues that the vehement controversies surrounding European Muslims are better understood as persistent, unresolved intra-European political tensions rather than as a clash between “Islam and the West."

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-1299-7
    Subjects: Anthropology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction (pp. 1-14)

    This is the improbable story of a simple song and its long and complicated journey across oceans and continents. And I am an improbable person to be telling it, so let me explain how I came to write this book. I grew up in a white, middle-class home in a white, middle-class neighborhood in the middle of the United States a bit after the middle of the twentieth century. My parents loved music but weren’t musicians, and, like most middle-class families in the middle of the country at that time, we didn’t own a lot of records or listen to...

    • Today in the United States, the mention of the words “September 11” or “9/11” conjure memories of terror, destruction, and lost innocence, a day in history when “the world changed” for the worse. In the memories of many Latin Americans, this date is associated with similar images and sentiments, but inspired by a quite different historical event: the day in 1973 in Chile that the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende was overthrown in a bloodycoup d’étatushering in a brutal military dictatorship led by General Augusto Pinochet that would last nearly two decades. The coup in Chile was...

    • In spite of Karl Marx’s famous dictum that religion is the opiate of the people, the singing of religious songs in the history of the United States has often been associated with struggles for human rights, social justice, and peace. This can be seen most clearly in the case of African American spirituals, dating back to the times of slavery and continuing to the present day. The song “I Shall Not Be Moved” is one of many African American spirituals that have been put to work not only to express religious devotion and ease the pain of many an individual...

    • Workers in the United States would not seem to have had much to sing about during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Millions were unemployed, hundreds of thousands had lost their homes to foreclosure, and the majority of working-class families had fallen into poverty. Rather than passively accept their lot and hope for an eventual turnaround in the economy, many workers fought to defend their rights and regain their lost standard of living by joining a militant trade union movement. Many new unions were organized through the auspices of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), under the leadership of John...

    • The freedom songs of the mid-twentieth-century African American civil rights movement are mainly drawn from the slave spirituals of the nineteenth century. Although black activists were surely familiar with most of the spirituals that were put to use by the civil rights movements, they did not carry out the transformation of these songs alone. The transformation was catalyzed, at least at the outset, by left activists attached to the labor union movement. Having long been the principal center for labor education and advocacy in the U. S. South, in the 1950s the Highlander Center redirected its efforts and attention to...

    • On its way to becoming “No nos moverán,” the song “We Shall Not Be Moved” followed several distinct routes that connected a number of widely dispersed locales at different historical junctures. The people who adapted “We Shall Not Be Moved” for use with Spanish-speaking audiences at different moments in different places appear to have done so without knowledge of one another. The rise of “No nos moverán” as a “movement” song in several different Spanish-speaking countries is, in this sense, a good illustration of Bernice Johnson Reagon’s metaphor of the “river” of U. S. African spirituals branching into many different...

    • By the time Joan Baez arrived in Spain in 1977 to perform for the first time, “No nos moverán” was already well known as a protest song against the country’s fascist regime. Generalísimo Francisco Franco, the country’s dictator, had died in 1975, but Spain had not yet made the transition to democracy. Baez had been an international star for many years by then and was better-known in the Spanishspeaking world than ever before, following her well-received albumGracias a la vida, which had been released in 1974. She had refused to perform in Spain until that moment to avoid the...

    • Even the loudest singing by the grandest choir cannot be heard by anyone more than a few hundred feet away. Songs do not just “blow in the wind” toward people geographically distant from those who have sung them. Additionally, after their live performance, songs do not remain in the air surrounding their singers and audiences, except in some metaphorical sense. Even within the same geographical community, whose members are in regular face-to-face communication with one another, songs are learned not simply “by osmosis” but rather through repeated performance, listening, repetition, and memorization. For a song to be learned by others...

    • The history of this peripatetic song transcends many borders, making stops in several countries and getting sung in several different languages. In doing so, it provides an apt illustration of Simon Frith’s (1996b: 276) recognition that music may well be the cultural form best able to cross the boundaries that groups erect around themselves, given the ways that “sounds carry across fences and walls and oceans, across classes, races, and nations.” It also illustrates how musical meanings can be appropriated in serial fashion across different cultural groups, as members of one group take “bits and pieces that appeal” from another...

  4. The song “We Shall Not Be Moved” has achieved a level of transcendence that few other “political” songs have, in the sense that it has transcended numerous racial, cultural, linguistic, and political boundaries during the course of the past two centuries and continues to move back and forth across such boundaries today. In this Conclusion, I argue that the song’s appearance in so many movements and in so many distinct national contexts owes to not only the material infrastructure and transcultural processes discussed in Chapters 7 and 8 but also the internationalist outlook and values of musicians and social justice...

  5. Coda (pp. 147-154)

    As a spiritual, “I Shall Not Be Moved” was born of the oppression, exploitation, and longing for liberation of enslaved Africans in North America. Over the past two centuries, the song has continued to express that deep longing for freedom and justice in many different voices, on several different continents, and in several different languages. It has been transmitted largely by word of mouth among members of intersecting and interlocking social justice movements, unexpectedly popping up again and again in new places in the service of new struggles throughout its history. As the song has traveled through these activist networks,...

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This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 International.
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