Relive the excitement of the Patriots’ path to their fourth Super Bowl Championship with “Pumped,” a special commemorative book from The Boston Globe.

editorial | 50 years later . . .

Sam Cooke: A change finally came

Sweet-voiced Sam Cooke was one of the nation’s most successful black “crossover” artists, singing uplifting ballads like “Wonderful World.” But when he was denied a motel room in Jim Crow-era Shreveport, La., he had no other outlet for his frustration than to write a song. The result, “A Change Is Gonna Come,” was recorded 50 years ago last week. Somehow, Cooke sensed that the impregnable wall of segregation was about to crumble, and captured the sentiments of black Americans who were both weary and hopeful: “It’s been a long time coming. . .”

Continue reading it below

A few months later, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, barring discrimination in motels, among other accommodations. But Cooke’s lyrics came to fuller fruition 44 years later, when Barack Obama claimed victory in the 2008 presidential election by declaring, “It’s been a long time coming, but. . . change has come to America.”

Sadly, Cooke didn’t live to see many changes. He died in a controversial shooting that December. “A Change Is Gonna Come” was his great valedictory statement, produced at great risk to his career. The song — with its searing combination of faith and yearning — endures as perhaps the greatest civil rights anthem. And it stands as proof that change doesn’t come only through Congress, but through countless acts of individual courage.

Loading comments...

Wake up with today's top stories.

Want each day's news headlines delivered fresh to your
inbox every morning? Just connect with us
in one of the following ways:
or
Please enter a valid email
BostonGlobe.com will never post anything without asking. Privacy Policy
Subscriber Log In

You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com