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The Library of Protest Songs: A Collection of Timeless Anthems

Introduction to the Library of Protest Songs

Protest songs have always played a vital role in human history, providing a vehicle for expressing dissent, raising awareness, and inspiring collective action. From the revitalizing melodies of the Civil Rights Movement to the raw, hard-hitting beats of punk rock, protest songs have been an integral part of the modern spirit of rebellion.

At the Library of Protest Songs, we have curated an extensive collection of the most iconic protest anthems of all time. From folk to hip-hop, rock to soul, our library covers a vast array of genres and styles.

Our collection includes some of the most beloved and timeless protest songs ever produced. These songs carry a powerful message that resonates with audiences around the world, inspiring action and change.

The lyrical themes of our collection address issues like war, inequality, civil rights, and social justice. Here is a list of the 55 greatest protest songs of all time.

1. “We Shall Overcome” – Pete Seeger


“Blowin’ in the Wind” – Bob Dylan

3. “War” – Edwin Starr


“Imagine” – John Lennon

5. “The Times They Are a-Changin'” – Bob Dylan


“What’s Going On” – Marvin Gaye

7. “A Change Is Gonna Come” – Sam Cooke


“Strange Fruit” – Billie Holiday

9. “Ohio” – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young


“Fortunate Son” – Creedence Clearwater Revival

11. “Fight the Power” – Public Enemy


“Killing in the Name” – Rage Against the Machine

13. “Born in the U.S.A.” – Bruce Springsteen


“This Land Is Your Land” – Woody Guthrie

15. “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” – Gil Scott-Heron


“Mississippi Goddam” – Nina Simone

17. “Get Up, Stand Up” – Bob Marley and the Wailers


“Eve of Destruction” – Barry McGuire

19. “Beds Are Burning” – Midnight Oil


“Power to the People” – John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band

21. “White Riot” – The Clash


“Which Side Are You On?” – Florence Reece

23. “Ghosts of Cable Street” – The Men They Couldn’t Hang


“Sunday Bloody Sunday” – U2

25. “Blackbird” – The Beatles


“Respect” – Aretha Franklin

27. “Give Peace a Chance” – John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band


“I Can’t Breathe” – H.E.R.

29. “The Fight Song” – Marilyn Manson


“F*** tha Police” – N.W.A.

31. “Living for the City” – Stevie Wonder


“Straight Outta Compton” – N.W.A.

33. “One” – Metallica


“Like a Rolling Stone” – Bob Dylan

35. “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” – Bob Dylan


“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” – Bob Dylan

37. “Love and War” – Johnny Cash


“Masters of War” – Bob Dylan

39. “For What It’s Worth” – Buffalo Springfield


“Do You Hear the People Sing?” – Claude-Michel Schnberg

41. “I Am Woman” – Helen Reddy


“We’re Not Gonna Take It” – Twisted Sister

43. “The Man in Black” – Johnny Cash


“Everybody Knows” – Leonard Cohen

45. “Street Fighting Man” – The Rolling Stones


“I Fought the Law” – The Clash

47. “Zombie” – The Cranberries


“Killing Me Softly With His Song” – Roberta Flack

49. “My City Was Gone” – Pretenders


“What About Us” – Pink

51. “Part of the Union” – Strawbs


“The Ballad of John and Yoko” – The Beatles

53. “Gimme Shelter” – The Rolling Stones


“Burnin’ and Lootin'” – Bob Marley and the Wailers

55. “Amerika” – Rammstein

We Shall Overcome – Pete Seeger

One of the most iconic and enduring protest songs is “We Shall Overcome” by Pete Seeger. The song has a rich history that spans generations and continents.

Originally a gospel song known as “I’ll Overcome Someday,” the lyrics were adapted by Seeger and other Civil Rights activists in the 1950s. Seeger recorded “We Shall Overcome” in 1963, and the song quickly became one of the most powerful anthems of the Civil Rights Movement.

Its message of hope and unity resonated with activists, who sang it during marches and protests. The song’s primary keyword, “We Shall Overcome,” is repeated throughout the verses, and the melody is simple but stirring.

The lyrics express a resolve to overcome oppression and injustice, and to peacefully resist in the face of violence and hatred. Today, “We Shall Overcome” continues to inspire movements for social justice and human rights.

It has been translated into numerous languages and has been performed by artists across the globe. In conclusion, protest songs have always been a powerful tool for expressing dissent and inspiring change.

The Library of Protest Songs houses some of the most influential and iconic protest songs of all time, including “We Shall Overcome” by Pete Seeger. These songs continue to resonate with audiences around the world, inspiring hope and encouraging us to fight for a better tomorrow.

Solidarity Forever – Utah Phillips

“Solidarity Forever” is a classic labor movement song written by Ralph Chaplin in 1915. Utah Phillips, a prominent folk singer and labor activist, popularized the song in the 1960s.

The song advocates for workers to come together and form solidarity, realizing the strength in unity to resist oppression and exploitation. The song became an essential part of the labor movement, becoming the unofficial anthem of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and other labor organizations.

The song is known for its uplifting melody, inspiring lyrics, and powerful message of hope. Utah Phillips brought the song back into the public spotlight during the 1960s and 1970s.

The song resonated with the emerging counterculture and civil rights movement, showing the importance of workers’ rights in the fight for social justice. Phillips used the song as a call-to-action, encouraging people to stand up against injustices, fight for their rights and stand in solidarity.

Today, “Solidarity Forever” remains an essential labor movement song. The song is performed at labor events and rallies, and its message continues to inspire workers to come together in strength and community.

We Shall Not Be Moved – The Almanac Singers, Pete Seeger & The Song Swappers

“We Shall Not Be Moved” is a song with roots in the African American spirituals. The Almanac Singers, which included Pete Seeger, popularized the song as a protest song during the labor movement of the 1940s.

The song became an anthem of civil rights and anti-war movements. The song was used in both massive labor strikes and during peaceful civil rights demonstrations.

Its strong message of solidarity and nonviolent resistance became a perfect fit for these movements, inspiring participants to become steadfast and unyielding.

The song’s evolution from a spiritual to a protest song is a testament to the power of African American music and the significance of Civil Rights organizations to repurpose such songs for their causes.

The Almanac Singers and Pete Seeger recognize the song’s cultural influence and incorporated it into their music to propagate the message of nonviolent resistance during the labor and Civil Rights movement. “We Shall Not Be Moved” reminded people that even in the midst of terrible chaos or crises, they could hold strong and resist oppressive forces.

The song’s inspiring message makes it an evergreen protest song that continues to resonate with activists today.

Keep Your Hand on The Plow – Mahalia Jackson

“Keep Your Hand on the Plow” is a spiritual that dates back to the slavery period. The song’s lyrics, calling for perseverance and faith during difficult times, took on new significance during the Civil Rights Movement and the labor movement of the 20th century.

Mahalia Jackson, a legendary gospel singer, popularized the song during the Civil Rights Movement, where it came to be seen as an anthem for the movement’s nonviolent resistance. The song’s powerful assertion to keep moving forward and never lose faith provided solace to activists during hard times.

It also served to remind them that struggle and sacrifice were necessary to create a better future. The song’s use during the labor movement, similarly, conveys the message of taking one step at a time, never giving up and pushing towards the goal, which often meant equal and fair treatment of all workers.

The song became a symbol of workers’ struggle and the need for unshakable determination to win gains against corporate power. Today, “Keep Your Hand on The Plow” remains an iconic protest song, celebrated for its message of perseverance and hope in the face of adversity.

War – Edwin Starr

Edwin Starr’s “War” is an iconic protest song that emerged in the wake of the Vietnam War. The song’s powerful lyrics boldly declared the atrocities and senselessness of war, inspiring the anti-war movement of the 1960s and early 1970s.

“War, huh, yeah, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing,” the song’s opening lyrics, became an anthem of the anti-war movement, protesting both the Vietnam War and war in general.

The song’s message resonated with people from all walks of life, creating unity amongst disparate groups. The song was used by activists and peace advocates to raise awareness about the horrors of war and to demand an end to it.

Many saw the war as a tool for profiteering, and the song became a symbol of resistance against the military-industrial complex. Even today, the song remains a powerful and timeless reminder of the human cost of war and the need to choose peace over conflict.

Its melodies and lyrics continue to inspire new generations to protest against war and stand up for the families and innocent victims affected by the destruction and chaos it brings along with it.

The Preacher and the Slave – Joe Glazer

“The Preacher and the Slave” is a satirical ballad that was written in 1911 by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) songwriter Joe Hill. The song is a parody of the Christian hymn “In the Sweet By and By,” and it criticizes the hypocrisy of some religious leaders and their refusal to support the working class.

Joe Glazer later popularized the song as a protest anthem against religious and political conservatism during the Civil Rights Movement and labor movement of the 1960s. The song’s lyrics satirize religious authorities, who refuse to provide practical help to the workers, instead urging them to hold on to their faith and wait for a better life in heaven.

The song’s primary keyword “The Preacher and the Slave” became a symbol of the conflict between capitalism and socialism in the labor movement, and the importance of workers’ unity in fighting for their rights. The song addresses the exploitation of workers by the wealthy, the power of the church to keep the oppressed in their place, and the need for the workers to stand together rather than relying on charity.

Today, the song remains a potent protest song, inspiring rebellion against religious and political conservatism, and reminding people of the power of satire in expressing dissent.

Bread and Roses – John Denver

“Bread and Roses” is a political slogan that was coined in 1911 by Rose Schneiderman and adopted by the Women’s Trade Union League. The slogan symbolized the need for economic justice and better working conditions, not just wages alone.

In 1912, a textile strike in Massachusetts popularized the phrase, and it later became a labor anthem for union organizations and workers’ rights advocates. John Denver later reinterpreted the slogan as a protest song, infusing it with his style and voice in 1976.

The song’s lyrics call for an end to poverty and social inequality, demanding that everyone should have access to basic needs and be treated equally. “Bread and Roses” became a powerful protest song against capitalist exploitation and the struggle of the working class for better living standards.

The song’s primary keyword “Bread and Roses” echoes a demand for equal rights and the necessity of struggle to achieve those rights. The song specifically addresses the importance of health care, education, art and culture to ensure people’s well-being, and that all people deserve a life beyond basic needs.

Today, the song remains an essential protest song, expressing the continued demands for social and economic equality, and justice for all workers. It is a reminder that struggles and sacrifices are necessary to maintain the gains made for workers’ rights.

Dump the Bosses Off Your Back – Anne Feeney

“Dump the Bosses Off Your Back” is an iconic labor movement song written by Joe Hill, who was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). The song has been adapted and performed by numerous artists, including Anne Feeney.

Feeney, a politically conscious folk singer and activist, popularized the song during her performances and rallies throughout the 1980s and beyond. The song is a scathing critique of the wealthy, calling for workers to unite and fight for their rights.

The song’s primary keyword “Dump the Bosses Off Your Back” raises awareness about wealth inequality and the exploitation of the working class by the ruling class. The lyrics urge workers to take control of their lives by standing up against their employers and resisting capitalist oppression.

Today, the song remains a classic protest anthem, inspiring activists and workers to challenge their bosses and loudly advocate for economic justice.

Union Maid – Woody Guthrie

“Union Maid” is a folk song written by Woody Guthrie in the 1940s. The song honors the contributions of working women in the labor movement, which is often overlooked in discussions about labor history.

The song’s primary keyword “Union Maid” celebrates the courage and dedication of women who worked in jobs and industries that were typically dominated by men. The song acknowledges the difficult conditions and low pay that women faced and how they rose up and joined together to fight for their rights.

The song specifically highlights women’s role in the labor movement, calling for them to be respected and honored for the work they did. The song has become a symbol of feminist and labor solidarity, encapsulating the spirit of resistance and activism against social injustices.

Today, “Union Maid” remains an essential song in the history of the labor movement, empowering women to speak out and stand up against oppression. The song’s legacy inspires workers to continue fighting for their rights and dignity, working tirelessly to create a fair and just society for all.

Where Have All the Flowers Gone – Peter, Paul and Mary

“Where Have All the Flowers Gone” is a song written by Pete Seeger and inspired by a traditional Cossack folk song. The song was popularized

Protest Songs: A Powerful Expression of Dissent

Protest songs have been a significant part of popular music for decades.

Originating as a means to express political and social dissent, such songs have played an essential role in many significant historical events. Whether sung on picket lines or at rallies, the lyrics of protest songs have been used to inspire and galvanize those fighting for social justice.

This article will explore some iconic protest songs and their impact on popular culture.

Classic Protest Songs

Joe Hill, written by Alfred Hayes and set to music by Earl Robinson, is a powerful and evocative protest song. Reflecting the life of the eponymous labor activist, the song has become an anthem for the labor movement.

Similarly, Paul Robeson’s song, Ballad for Americans, became a symbol of resistance against racial inequality in America. Its message of unity and equality captured the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement.

Draft Dodger Rag, written by Phil Ochs, became a rallying cry for the anti-Vietnam War movement during the late 1960s. It is characterized by its witty lyrics and catchy tune, making it one of Ochs’ most popular protest songs.

Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land is a classic American tune that champions the beauty of the country but also highlights the struggles and hardships that many face. The song was born out of Guthrie’s experience traveling across the United States and witnessing the poverty and discrimination that was rampant in the nation.

Pete Seeger’s Popular Wobbly, written by Ralph Chaplin, was one of the first labor songs ever to be recorded. Its call to action inspired many labor activists in the early 20th century.

Utah Phillips’ Starlight on the Rails is a song that pays tribute to the hobos and migrant workers of the Great Depression, who rode the rails in search of work. It is a moving tribute to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall is a protest song by Bob Dylan that is widely regarded as one of his most influential works. The song was inspired by the anxiety and uncertainty surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis during the early 1960s.

It is a powerful reminder of the consequences of nuclear war and became an anthem for anti-war protestors in the United States.


Protest songs have provided a platform for political and social messages that might not have been heard otherwise. These songs have played a crucial role in bringing about change and galvanizing movements.

From labor activism to civil rights, these songs have given voice to the marginalized and oppressed. These classic protest songs continue to inspire and resonate with people around the world.

They are a testament to the power of music and its ability to transcend cultural and political boundaries.

3) Modern Protest Songs

Protest songs have continued to evolve over the years, and in the 1980s, Public Enemy’s Fight The Power became the new anthem of hope and empowerment for the Black community. The song criticized institutionalized racism and the power structures that marginalize the Black community.

The song became an instant hit and was featured in Spike Lee’s iconic film, Do The Right Thing. Billy Bragg’s The Red Flag is a rallying cry for the working class and labor activists.

The song, with its powerful lyrics and melody, highlights the struggle for workers’ rights and dignity. Similarly, his version of The Internationale became especially popular during the 1980s, when Thatcherism threatened to destabilize the labor movement in the UK.

We Have Fed You All A Thousand Years by Utah Phillips is a song that denounces capitalist control over the natural resources. The song speaks to the exploitation of the working class and the exploitation of the earth’s resources for the profit of a few.

The message in the song serves as a reminder to those in power that people have had enough of the decades of injustice and want to see change.

4) Protest Songs on Society

Hallelujah, Im a Bum is a song by Pete Seeger that calls into question the social and economic structures that create a hierarchy of wealth. The song speaks to the societal issues that plague all nations, where the poor and homeless are devalued and treated as outcasts.

The song is a poignant reminder that the disenfranchised and economically marginalized are humans who also deserve respect and love. Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season) by The Byrds is a song inspired by the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes.

The song speaks to the interconnectedness of life and the cyclic nature of existence. The song became popular during the 1960s as an anti-war protest song.

It encouraged hope in the face of great human hardship and turmoil. Guantanamera by The Sandpipers is a song that celebrates unity, freedom, and human rights.

The song, originally written in the late 1920s, has become a symbol of resistance against political oppression and a rallying cry for those who desire to be free. The song has been interpreted by many artists over the years, but The Sandpipers’ version became the most popular in the United States during the 1960s.

In conclusion, protest songs have been an integral part of popular culture for decades, providing a platform for the oppressed and marginalized voices to be heard. Whether classic or modern, these songs are a reminder of the ongoing struggle for social justice and equality.

The songs described above speak to the human condition and offer a message of hope, compassion, and unity. They continue to inspire and resonate with people around the world, transcending cultural and political boundaries.

5) Race and Social Justice in Protest Songs

Neil Young’s Southern Man is a powerful protest song that addresses the issue of racism in the American South. The song speaks to the violence and oppression faced by the Black community.

Young’s lyrics accused southern white society of racism and being blind to their privilege. The song became popular during the 1970s and sparked debates.

Nina Simone’s To Be Young Gifted and Black became a rallying call for the civil rights movement. The song was co-written with Weldon Irvine Jr and was inspired by playwright Lorraine Hansberry, who died at an early age due to cancer.

The song celebrates the power of Blackness and solidarity and became famous among Black communities worldwide. Which Side Are You On?

is a protest song that gained popularity during the 1930s. Written by Florence Reece, the song was a report of the conflict between miners and the mining company owners in Harlan County, Kentucky.

The song became a staple for the labor movement around the world and has been covered by various artists throughout the years. Banks of Marble by Fred Holstein is a song that speaks to the issue of economic inequality in America.

The song laments the grandiosity of institutions and the constant struggle of the working class. The song’s lyrics reflect the difficulties of everyday working life, along with the dreams of a more equitable society.

6) Politics and Government in Protest Songs

Step By Step by Pete Seeger is a song written by him as a means to protest the Vietnam War. The song’s call to peace and unity is a reflection of the times’ confusion and turmoil.

The song calls for a new world order founded on compassion, human dignity, and respect and became a symbol of resistance. Down by the Riverside by Grandpa Elliott is a song that became popular during the Civil Rights Movement.

The song encouraged people to continue fighting against racism and segregation, even in the face of violence, oppression, and hatred. The song became a statement of resistance and a call for freedom.

Bob Dylan’s Hurricane was inspired by the case of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a Black boxer accused of a triple murder in 1966. Dylan’s lyrics criticized the justice system that sets out to ruin the lives of Black people and other minorities.

The song became a rallying cry for those protesting the mass incarceration and systemic racism present in the US justice system. Blackleg Miner by Offa Rex is a song that speaks to the power dynamics in mining towns.

The song details the life of Blackleg miners who sided with the mining companies to the detriment of their fellow miners. The song speaks to the need for solidarity and the fight against exploitation of workers by those they perceive as their benefactors.

Where the Fraser River Flows by John McCutcheon is a song that protests against the logging and mining companies that destroyed the natural resources of the land. The song speaks to the need for environmental justice and the importance of preserving the earth’s resources.

Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young was a song that protested against the killing by National Guard during the Kent State shootings of student protestors. Four unarmed students were killed during the incident, sparking outrage around the world.

The song became a symbol of resistance and inspired many to continue standing up against government and political oppression. In conclusion, protest songs have played an essential role in social and political justice movements throughout history.

These songs have transcended cultural and political boundaries and spoke to the human condition and the struggle for freedom, equality, and justice. Whether on race, social justice or politics, these protest songs have galvanized people to demand change.

They continue to inspire and resonate with listeners who desire to fight for a better world. 7)


Protest songs have always played a significant role in society, providing a platform for people to express their anger, frustration, and hope.

As evident in the songs analyzed in this article, protest songs cover a range of social and political issues, including race, economic inequality, politics, environment, and civil rights.

Classic protest songs such as Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land and Pete Seeger’s Popular Wobbly have become icons of social and political justice movements.

Nina Simone’s To Be Young Gifted and Black was a rallying cry for the civil rights movement, while Bob Dylan’s Hurricane criticized the criminal justice system that oppresses Black communities. Modern protest songs like Public Enemy’s Fight The Power and Billy Bragg’s The Red Flag continue to influence social justice and equality movements worldwide.

Fred Holstein’s Banks of Marble laments the struggles of the working class and the oppressive systems that keep them down. Other protest songs on society include Pete Seeger’s Hallelujah, Im a Bum, The Byrds’ Turn! Turn! Turn!, and Guantanamera by The Sandpipers.

Protest songs on politics and government include Step By Step by Pete Seeger, Down by the Riverside by Grandpa Elliot, Ohio by Crosby, Stills & Nash, Blackleg Miner by Offa Rex, and Where the Fraser River Flows by John McCutcheon.

In conclusion, protest songs have always been a reflection of the time’s social and political conditions, providing an outlet for individuals and communities to voice their concerns and inspire change.

These songs remain integral to the cultural and political movement worldwide, reminding us that the struggle for justice and equality is ongoing and that music can be a powerful tool for change. In conclusion, protest songs have played an instrumental role in social and political justice movements throughout history.

From classic anthems like This Land is Your Land and popular protest songs like Fight the Power, to folk standards and labor songs, this genre has provided a platform for people to express their collective anger, frustration, and hope. Whether it is on race, inequality, politics, or the environment, these songs have inspired generations of people worldwide to stand up and fight for justice.

Protest music reminds us that music can be a powerful tool for change and that the struggle for justice is ongoing; it is up to us to ensure that protest songs continue to remain a significant part of our cultural and political discourse.

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