We Shall Overcome

This study guide will help you analyze Lyndon B. Johnson’s “We Shall Overcome” speech. In addition to help with your analysis, you can find a summary of the text and ideas for putting it into perspective

Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908-1973) was the 36th president of the United States. Johnson served as vice president under President John F. Kennedy and assumed the presidency after Kennedy was assassinated. The “We Shall Overcome” speech on the Voting Rights Act was delivered on March 15, 1965, to a joint session of Congress. The formal title of the speech was “The American Promise” but it later came to be known as the “We Shall Overcome” speech, a phrase inspired by a civil rights folk anthem. 

Extract

Here, you can read an extract from our study guide: 

Rhetorical questions

Johnson uses some rhetorical questions which are meant to make the audience think about the deeper implications of his words, like in the following example: 

Negroes are not the only victims. How many white children have gone uneducated? How many white families have lived in stark poverty? How many white lives have been scarred by fear, because we've wasted our energy and our substance to maintain the barriers of hatred and terror?

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We Shall Overcome

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