We Shall Not Be Moved/No nos moverán
Biography of a Song of Struggle
Publication: Mar 16
Publication: Mar 16
Publication: Mar 16
5.5 x 8.25
The international travels, history, and influence of a traditional songRead the Introduction (pdf).
The activist anthem “We Shall Not Be Moved” expresses resolve in the face of adversity; it helps members of social movements persevere in their struggles to build a better world. The exact origins of the song are unknown, but it appears to have begun as a Protestant revival song sung by rural whites and African slaves in the southeastern United States in the early nineteenth century. The song was subsequently adopted by U.S. labor and civil rights activists, students and workers opposing the Franco dictatorship in Spain, and by Chilean supporters of that country’s socialist government in the early 1970s.
In his fascinating biography, We Shall Not Be Moved, David Spener details the history and the role the song has played in each of the movements in which it has been sung. He analyzes its dissemination, function, and meaning through a number of different sociological and anthropological lenses to explore how songs can serve as an invaluable resource to participants in movements for social change.
"We Shall Not Be Moved/no nos moverán will resonate with readers from a variety of backgrounds.... Spener, nonetheless, makes a scholarly contribution to cultural/historical contexts by his careful study."
—Journal of American Culture
"Spener is unrelenting in his search for its appearance in every social movement imaginable. Why does it matter? Spener explains that during slavery, failed strikes, imprisonment, and police violence, 'movement' songs can reinforce 'conviction, resolve, and defiance' during moments of terror and desperation and can link us to memories of other people and other struggles.... Spener's book provides a wonderful example of how movement music can solidify our basic human imperative: to find the will to resist oppression in the darkest of times. We need such a song—and the consciousness of human solidarity that goes with it—now more than ever."
—Journal of American History
"Spener has written a fascinating history of a song that most North American readers will recognize as one of the anthems of the 1960s Civil Rights struggle. What the average reader won't know is that, over the course of its history, the song has crossed linguistic, racial, and cultural borders in surprising and fascinating ways.... It is an amazing journey that sociologist and anthropologist Spener has meticulously researched through both interviews and a myriad of secondary sources. Spener's unpacking of the history, in itself, is an impressive feat which he has tried to recount without using unnecessary disciplinary jargon while, at the same time, remaining academically rigorous."
—Journal of Folklore Research
"In We Shall Not Be Moved/No Nos Moverán, David Spener offers a compelling social history, aimed as much at activists as at scholars and academics, of one of the world’s most famous 'songs of struggle'.... Spener starts with an excellent introduction.... This fascinating account of the song's history begins in Chile in the early 1970s.... The second part of the book explores the infrastructure of social justice movements, and analyses how activists from different geographical locations, nations, and language groups effectively adapted the song to their own purposes in various circumstances..... Well-written and convincingly argued, this book will be of interest to anyone interested in the complex and dynamic ways in which music and politics intertwine."
—Bulletin of Latin American Research
"We Shall Not Be Moved/No nos moverán is the fascinating history of a famous song of struggle. Through his exploration of how floating bridges were constructed between distant communities to support and defend social justice in a variety of political contexts, Spener has made a significant contribution to the anthropology of music."
—Joaquina Labajo, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
"We Shall Not Be Moved/No nos moverán is an intriguing and inspiring book. The story of the evolution of ‘We Shall Not Be Moved’ illuminates the significance of songs as a resource in social movements. This story teaches us a great deal about how major movements in the United States, in Spain, and in Latin America not only made history but also made culture. But there is more: This book uncovers the international structures of communication and shared identity that help constitute processes of globalization from below."
—Richard Flacks, University of California, Santa Barbara
“(A) concise, readable examination of the arts of resistance and the inspiration of left-wing internationalism. Rich in its multidisciplinary fluency, the book draws theory and method from musicology, sociology, anthropology, and history to trace how the English language 'We Shall Not Be Moved' originated as an African American antebellum spiritual, then became a militant twentieth-century labor tune, and then a Civil Rights freedom song, and ultimately a 'transnational social movement anthem' reconceived in Spanish-speaking communities on both sides of the Atlantic as 'No Nos Moverán.' Spener navigates a lot of territory—linguistically, culturally, geographically, and historically—in the book, and he does it well. The text is lean and learned. The author is steeped in the traditions and orientations of social justice movement culture. He writes with authority and with clear admiration for his subject matter"
—Peace & Change
"In We Shall Not Be Moved/No nos moverán David Spener has written the story of a song, or to frame it in more general terms, a case study of a cultural object empowering and connecting collective action across broad historical eras and substantially different societies. Written to inspire and analyze, this engaging and insightful book describes and makes sociological sense of the story of ‘'We Shall Not Be Moved'.... (He) enriches our understanding of how cultural objects operate in social movements.... Perhaps Spener’s most original contribution is his discussion of the translation and transcendence in the travels of a song, in which he analyzes the work that is required to take songs from one cultural context to another. This is especially interesting for a song that is translated from one language to another.... (R)eaders will find its story and analysis appealing."
Table of Contents
I HISTORY OF A SONG OF STRUGGLE
1 A Song, Socialism, and the 1973 Military Coup in Chile
2 “I Shall Not Be Moved” in the U.S. South: Blacks and Whites, Slavery and Spirituals
3 From Worship to Work: A Spiritual Is Adopted by the U.S. Labor Movement and the Left
4 From Union Song to Freedom Song: Civil Rights Activists Sing an Old Tune for a New Cause
5 From English in the U.S. South to Spanish in the U.S. Southwest: “We Shall Not Be Moved” Becomes “No nos moverán”
6 Across the Atlantic to Spain
II MOVEMENTS AND MEANINGS
7 Social Movement: A Song’s Journey across Time and Space
8 Translation and Transcendence in the Travels of a Song
Conclusion: An Internationalist Culture of the Singing Left in the Twentieth Century
Appendix: Note on Methods and Sources