copyright 2001 by Tim Griffin

In the early 1800’s, a little boy one day
Asked his father why some men were slaves
And his father said, “Oh, son
“It’s been that way since the world begun
“Why do you have to be the one who’s always making waves?”

But the boy kept asking questions, and when he grew to be a man,
He became our greatest president, his name was Abraham
He signed the law that freed the slaves, which only goes to show
Mighty oaks from little acorns grow

A little girl in Alabama asked her ma one day
“Why are the white folks treating us this way?
“Why do they set their dogs on us
“And make me sit in the back of the bus?”
Her Ma shook her head and then she just said, “It’s always been that way”

But the girl grew up and when the driver said, “Get back with the other darks”
She told him she would not be moved, her name was Rosa Parks
A single woman’s courage spelled the end of old Jim Crow
Mighty oaks from little acorns grow

There was a brave young minister named Martin Luther King
When people yelled, he taught them how to sing
And they sang, “We will not go on this way
“And we shall overcome someday”
Remember that when people say you can’t do anything

‘Cause from an acorn grows a tree, takes hold upon the land
Turns a desert into forest, making topsoil out of sand
And even though it sometimes takes a thousand years or so
Mighty oaks from little acorns grow

Now when you think that you can’t change the things you know are wrong
Just think about the people in this song
You’ve got to do what you know is right
And struggle with all your might
‘Cause even the darkest night is followed by the dawn

And even if it takes a thousand years, I swear we’re gonna win
It doesn’t matter where you’re from, or the color of your skin
I know it won’t be easy but I’ll tell you even so
Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, mighty oaks from little acorns grow.


This one took a long time to write: civil rights is a topic that has been done and done, plus I wanted to treat it with appropriate respect without sounding trite or cliché. Recording it was another nightmare: instead of my usual (in those days, anyway) chord-whacking style, I chose to fingerpick it on multiple instruments with the tracks laid in parallel. Add this to the long list of things in my life I probably never would have done had I know how much work it would be.

Here are some CALIFORNIA CONTENT STANDARDS addressed by this song:


  • History/Social Studies K.1.2: Learn examples of honesty, courage, determination, individual responsibility, and patriotism in American and world history from stories and folklore.
  • HSS K.6.1: Identify the purposes of, and the people and events honored in, commemorative holidays, including the human struggles that were the basis for the events (e.g., Thanksgiving, Independence Day, Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthdays, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day).

First Grade:

  • HSS 1.3.2: Understand the significance of our national holidays and the heroism and achievements of the people associated with them.

Second Grade:

  • HSS 2.5: Students understand the importance of individual action and character and explain how heroes from long ago and the recent past have made a difference in others’ lives (e.g., from biographies of Abraham Lincoln, Louis Pasteur, Sitting Bull, George Washington Carver, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Golda Meir, Jackie Robinson, Sally Ride).

Third Grade:

  • HSS 3.4.6: Describe the lives of American heroes who took risks to secure our freedoms (e.g., Anne Hutchinson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr.).

Eighth Grade:

  • HSS 8.1.2 Analyze the philosophy of government expressed in the Declaration of Independence, with an emphasis on government as a means of securing individual rights (e.g., key phrases such as “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”).
  • HSS 8.3.6: Describe the basic law-making process and how the Constitution provides numerous opportunities for citizens to participate in the political process and to monitor and influence government (e.g., function of elections, political parties, interest groups).
  • HSS 8.11.3: Understand the effects of the Freedmen’s Bureau and the restrictions placed on the rights and opportunities of freedmen, including racial segregation and “Jim Crow” laws.

D, G, C, A, and E. You can strum or fingerpick as you prefer.