Louise Shropshire, Civil Rights icon and Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame Inductee

Freedom Center Voices

July 17, 2023

Louise Shropshire, Civil Rights icon and Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame Inductee 

Louise Shropshire (1913-1993) was born in Alabama and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her grandparents were enslaved. Composing hymns at a young age, she eventually worked as the music minister at the Revelation Baptist Church in Cincinnati. She conducted the mass choir of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs in Cincinnati in 1935. Her hymnals were popularized throughout churches and were used during the Civil Rights Movement. “If My Jesus Wills,” was published in 1942, and used by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to bring people together during the Civil Rights Movement. The work was copyrighted in 1954.

“I’ll overcome, 

I’ll overcome, 

I’ll overcome someday, 

If my Jesus wills, 

I do believe, 

I’ll overcome someday.” 

“We Shall Overcome,” a song that brought hope, courage, and unity to the Civil Rights Movement was inspired by “If My Jesus Wills.” “We Shall Overcome” is believed to have come from African American workers were striking against the American Tobacco Co. in Charleston, South Carolina because they were only making $0.45 an hour. Pete Seeger overheard these workers singing and would go on to popularize the song.

“We Shall Overcome” has very similar lyrics to “If My Jesus Wills”: 

“We Shall Overcome, 

We Shall Overcome, 

We shall overcome someday, 

Deep in my heart, 

I do believe, 

We shall overcome someday.” 

Click here to listen to the Azuza Pacific University Gospel Choir perform “If My Jesus Wills.”   

Louise passed away in 1993. Her final words to her grandson, Robert A. Goins Shropshire, were “Someday, somebody’s gonna do somethin’ with with all my music.” In 2016, the We Shall Overcome Foundation filed a class-action lawsuit against The Richmond Organization, who they believed claimed illegitimate copyright. In 2018, a New York Federal Judge signed an order that released “We Shall Overcome” in public domain, which granted people easier access to Louise’s song. Her grandson believes she would been so happy that her song could be used by everyone.3 

Louise will be inducted into the Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame on July 22nd, 2023. For more information, visit their website https://www.cincyblackmusicwalkoffame.org/ 

Autumn Pitney - Manager of Guest Experiences

Autumn holds a Bachelor's degree in Art History, Criticism and Conversation from the University of Cincinnati, and has been with the Freedom Center for almost two years (at time of publishing). 

Posted in Uncategorized and tagged .