“A Change Is Gonna Come”: The Story Behind the Song

Every year the U. S. Library of Congress chooses 25 recordings to preserve for future generations. The recordings are chosen because they are important parts of American culture, history, or art. Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” is one of the recordings that was chosen for preservation. This is the story behind the song.

Teachers:  The story is also in a Word document and in a pdf at the bottom of this page. Lesson plan ideas for this song are on the Lesson Plans page.

Level 2 (Beginning and Up)


No Rooms

By the time he was 32 years old, Sam Cooke was already wealthy and famous. He was a singer and songwriter with five big hits.

In 1963, he traveled to Louisiana for a concert. Sam, his wife, and his brother had a reservation at a hotel there. But when they tried to check into the hotel, the clerk at the front desk told them, “I’m sorry—the hotel is full.”

“But we have a reservation,” Sam said.

“I’m sorry,” the clerk said again. “The hotel is full. We don’t have any rooms.”

Sam knew that wasn’t true. There were rooms at the hotel, but not for him and his family. In 1963, hotels in the Southern United States were segregated–there were separate hotels for whites and blacks. Sam and his family were African-American, and the hotel was for whites only. They had to find a different hotel.

Two months after his experience in Louisiana, Sam wrote the song “A Change Is Gonna Come.” It is a song about injustice, and a song about hope.

no rooms.docx     no rooms.pdf

Story: Copyright © 2016 Sandra Heyer. All rights reserved. Permission granted to reproduce for classroom use.
Photo: Copyright © Adam Gryko | Dreamstime.com. Reprinted with permission.