Sam wrote this song in solidarity with the Civil Rights Movement in 1964. He also wrote it out of outrage when he, his wife and brother were turned away from an All-White motel when they were touring in Louisiana in 1963. Also, he said he was inspired by Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind,” and was ashamed that as a Black man he hadn’t written anything that spoke of racism in America. He admitted that he was worried that his mostly White fanbase wouldn’t like it, but he said that he wanted to write a song that would “make his father proud.” He said the song was the easiest he’d ever written and that he “grabbed it out of the air and it came to him whole.” He immediately added it to his playlist of songs that he performed.
The visuals that accompany this song helped me to remember that change may be slow in coming, but it does come. I felt hope after watching this video.