Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (MA)

Degree Level





Beth Schweiger

Committee Member

Robert McMath

Second Committee Member

Elizabeth Markham

Third Committee Member

Michael Pierce


20th Century United States, Labor, United States South


Zilphia Horton, a college educated, middle class white woman from the rural American south, created the canon of music that would become central to the black freedom struggle in postwar America. Horton's work in the post-New Deal labor movement established the methods of incorporating protest music in movements of social justice that prevailed for the rest of the century. The work songs and hymns that she collected, arranged, notated, and published while music director at Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, TN--including "We Shall Overcome," "This Little Light of Mine," "We Shall Not Be Moved"--motivated generations of activists as they transformed the nation. This paper addresses Horton's methods of collecting, teaching, and applying music as a powerful medium of social change - to motivate, to express shared emotions, problems, and goals, and to unify a diverse and divided movement. She developed the musical canon of labor, assured its transmission into civil rights, and created one of the most important and lasting musical legacies of the twentieth century.