Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro:
As I’m writing these books, I’m always watching newsreels to try and get a feel for what happened at certain moments. And there are some unbearable moments in the newsreels of the 1960s, unbearable to me anyway, and so many of them include, I realized, “We Shall Overcome.” One you may remember is when a black church was bombed in Birmingham, and four little black girls were killed. The newsreel cameras weren’t allowed inside the church; they’re outside. Watching the film, you see the crowd outside the church, and one of the things you see is that this is quite a large crowd. It’s not only the people from the community who couldn’t fit into the church, but there are an awful lot of people from other cities and towns who came to this funeral. Not just black people. And what you see, what you hear, what you feel, is the absolute silence of this crowd. And then the pallbearers start to bring out the four little coffins. They bring them out into that silence. And then a woman—one woman—begins to sing “We Shall Overcome.” And other people join in. And, as I wrote, “over the sobs of mothers rose up the words: ‘We shall overcome some day.’” I wrote a few pages about “We Shall Overcome” in Book Two. I’m going to write a lot more about it in Book Five. The writing will have to be pretty good to capture what that song meant, but I’m going to try.