Paired Texts > "We Shall Overcome" Speech
We've identified these texts as great options for text pairings based on similar themes, literary devices, topic, or writing style. Supplement your lesson with one or more of these options and challenge students to compare and contrast the texts. To assign a paired text, click on the text to go to its page and click the "Assign Text" button there.
On the evening of February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old African American boy from Florida, was fatally shot by a George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder and was found "not guilty" by a jury in July of 2013. These are the remarks of President Barack Obama after the trial.Pair "President Obama's Remarks on the Trayvon Martin Ruling" with Lyndon Johnson's "We Shall Overcome Speech" and ask students to compare the tone and rhetorical devices of each speech.
This text outlines the Strauss & Howe theory that each generation is shaped and defined by the notable historical events and social trends of their time.Pair “What Past Generations Can Teach Us About Our Future” with Lyndon B. Johnson’s speech, “We Shall Overcome.” Johnson, born in 1908, was a member of the GI Generation. Use this text to promote discussion as to whether or not this famous speech, and the historical incidents it refers to, accurately follows Kubic’s definition of a generation in “Crisis.”
"The Gettysburg Address" emphasizes the importance of continuing to fight for the American principles of liberty and equality.Pair “The Gettysburg Address” with President Johnson’s “We Shall Overcome” speech and have students compare the historical context and meaning of each piece. While Lincoln ended slavery, discrimination against African Americans continues to this day, and was a hotly contested issue during Johnson’s presidency. How do the two presidents draw upon traditional American ideals to explain, contextualize, and make personal the issues they discuss in their respective speeches?
This landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the "separate but equal" doctrine and called for the desegregation of American public schools.Pair “The Supreme Court’s Ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education” with former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “‘We Shall Overcome’ Speech” and have students think about the relationship between the decision handed down by Chief Justice Warren and the day-to-day reality of life for African-Americans during this time period. Do laws generally respond to changes in cultural sentiment, or do they affect it? Does Johnson present the same ideas in his speech that Warren does in his opinion, or are there differences? How do the speeches compare to one another in terms of tone?
In this historical document from 1790, Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, argues that slavery must be abolished in the United States.Pair “Petition from the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery” with former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “‘We Shall Overcome’ Speech” and have students think about the role that formal institutions, as well as society in general, have played in the oppression of African-Americans throughout history. As any student of American history is well aware, the end of slavery did not signify the end of both formal and informal forms of discrimination against African-Americans. How does Johnson’s speech speak to the principles expressed by Franklin? Is the work of the Civil Rights Movement a continuation of the work done by abolitionist groups more than a century and a half earlier? Why or why not? Use evidence from each text to support your answers.
President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation during the height of the Civil War. It was directed at the eleven states still in rebellion and decreed that all slaves in these rebelling states were freed.Pair “The Emancipation Proclamation” with “'We Shall Overcome' Speech” and ask students to discuss these historical milestones for the human rights of African Americans. Ask them to discuss the following question: Why did it take one hundred years for the unobstructed right to vote for African Americans?
On August 28, 1963, approximately 250,000 people participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It was at this event where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous, "I Have a Dream" speech. In this special series from NPR's Morning Edition, reporter Michelle Norris looks back on this important moment in Civil Rights history.Use “'We Shall Overcome' Speech” with "For King's Adviser, Fulfilling the Dream Cannot Wait" and ask students to take an in-depth look at the role of the law in advancing social justice.
In this address to Congress in November 1917, Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947), a leader in the fight for women's suffrage, argues for the rights of women.Pair “Address to the Congress on Women’s Suffrage” with “'We Shall Overcome' Speech” and ask students to discuss the history of civil rights in America. Why were some groups denied these rights? How did people work to overcome this discrimination?
Claude McKay (1889-1948) was a Jamaican-American writer and poet who was a seminal figure during the Harlem Renaissance. In this poem, McKay discusses facing death and other obstacles with courage and dignity, and reflects upon his perspective on the black experience during early 20th century America.Pair “If We Must Die” with “'We Shall Overcome' Speech” to spark a discussion about discrimination, courage, and resilience.
The impetus for and impact of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 are discussed in this informational text.Pair “The Voting Rights Act of 1965” with former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “‘'We Shall Overcome’ Speech” and have students think about the way in which Johnson’s speech captures the essence of the struggle for civil rights in America. How does his tone reflect the urgency of the situation? Attend closely to his language and identify particular words and phrases that communicate the state of race relations in the United States at the time and the necessity of the civil rights legislation.
This informational text details the controversial policies of Reconstruction after the American Civil War.Pair “Reconstruction” with “'We Shall Overcome' Speech” and ask students to discuss the similarities between the Reconstruction policies and President Lyndon Johnson’s view of America one century later. With their understanding of Reconstruction policies, students should evaluate LBJ’s speech to determine the ways in which America had made progress towards racial equality and the ways in which America had stagnated.
"Empowering the Black Power Movement" is an informational text that discusses how the Black Power movement emerged as a major political force for African American empowerment in the 1960s and 1970s.Pair “Empowering the Black Power Movement” with “'We Shall Overcome' Speech” and ask students to compare the themes Johnson shares with the themes of the Black Power movement, particularly in regards to unity and responsibility.
The informational text "Martin Luther King, Jr." explores the life of King and his contributions to fighting inequality through nonviolent means.Pair “'We Shall Overcome' Speech” with “Martin Luther King, Jr.” to provide students with additional information regarding the struggle in Selma, Alabama known as “Bloody Sunday.” How do the details provided in “We shall Overcome Speech” influence students’ opinions on the Civil Rights Movement and those who fought for equal rights?
The information text "An Incredible Job: Being America's President" discusses the variety of responsibilities and duties required of the president.Pair “'We Shall Overcome' Speech” with “An Incredible Job: Being America’s President” and ask students to compare how Lyndon B. Johnson fulfills the responsibilities of a president outlined in “An Incredible Job: Being America’s President.” How is Johnson’s speech an example of his response to a domestic crisis?
This informational text explores the Progressive Era and details the work of four influential leaders: Theodore Roosevelt, Upton Sinclair, Susan B. Anthony, and W.E.B. Du Bois.Pair “'We Shall Overcome' Speech” with “The Progressive Era” and ask students to draw connections between the ideas of the of the Progressive Era and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. How did the foundation that was set during the Progressive Era lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965?
In "Lyndon Baines Johnson and the Great Society," Mike Kubic discusses Johnson's presidency and how he worked to improve the lives of people in need with his "Great Society" program.Pair “'We Shall Overcome' Speech” with “Lyndon Baines Johnson and the Great Society” and ask students to discuss what the two texts reveal about Johnson. How does the description of Johnson in Mike Kubic’s text compare to how Johnson presents himself? Does Johnson appear as forceful in his speech as he is described in Kubic’s text?