We Shall Overcome Foundation
February is here, and as we take another month-long trip through African American history, we must remember how important it is to share our stories with others. Otherwise, our history will be lost, destroyed and in some cases, even hidden. Stories like that of Cincinnati’s own Louise Shropshire — the original author of what the U.S. Library of Congress has named, “The most powerful song of the 20th century — We Shall Overcome. ”
As previously published in The Cincinnati Herald in 2010, Isaias Gamboa, Los Angeles music producer, began an unexpected journey of discovery into the shocking true story of “We Shall Overcome.” A journey that led him to its previously unrecognized original author, Louise Shropshire, and the 1954 copyright of her Gospel hymn, “If My Jesus Wills.” This journey would also lead him to a powerful music publishing company named the Richmond Organization, which has claimed illegitimate rights to “We Shall Overcome” for 60 years and lied about its true history to protect its fortune.
In late 2012, Gamboa published his research and findings on the truth about “We Shall Overcome” in the book, “We Shall Overcome: Sacred Song on the Devil’s Tongue.” Shortly afterwards, he was approached by Simone Sheffield, Hollywood movie producer, who represented Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels. Having Sheffield share with him that Daniels was being forced — under protest — to pay for the use of “We Shall Overcome” in his movie, “The Butler,” that revolved around the Civil Rights Movement. It was then that Gamboa realized it was important for him to make a film to share his findings with the masses and, hopefully, prevent anyone from having to pay to use “We Shall Overcome” again. So important that in 2014, he relocated his family from Los Angeles to Cincinnati and has been here ever since.
Gamboa has now written and directed a powerful feature-length documentary film that tracks his amazing 10-year journey in real time. A journey that, in 2016, led him to sue the illegitimate owners of “We Shall Overcome” to free the song to the public domain. Gamboa’s lawsuit and film project made the front page of The New York Times, causing him to sit for three NPR interviews and be covered heavily by the national and global press.
Although Gamboa travelled to 10 cities in the making of his film, the movie spends much time in Cincinnati. In addition to following the legal drama in New York, Gamboa’s documentary proves Louise Shropshire’s role in the creation of “We Shall Overcome.” It also details her close friendship to the Revs. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Shuttlesworth and Thomas A. Dorsey, as well her affiliations with the Tried Stone Baptist Church, New Prospect Baptist Church, Revelation Missionary Baptist Church and Greater New Light Baptist Church. The film confirms Cincinnati’s role as the birthplace of We Shall Overcome.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Gamboa has independently funded and completed the critical production phase of the film, resulting in 200 hours of amazing footage and 23 powerful interviews. These interviews include many Cincinnati residents and also exclusive interviews with Daniels, Oscar–nominated director; Pete Seeger, legendary folk singer and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee; Otis Williams, founder of The Temptations and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee; and Pat Boone, Gospel Music Hall of Fame inductee.
He now needs your support to help fund the critical editing and post-production phase of the film. Your donations will help edit this film and get it to movie theaters and TV screens all across America.
His film, “Grand Theft Gospel: We Shall Overcome,” has an online crowd funding page which can be found at: https://igg.me/at/WeShallOvercome/x/5034329#/
It can also be found by going to the IndieGoGo.com page and searching for “We Shall Overcome.”
Any checks or money orders can be made out to: We Shall Overcome Foundation. Call 626 222-8902 for address information.