From Rolling Stone:
Stax singer Ingram, frustrated with the state of the world, told house songwriter Rice “black folk need to learn to respect themselves.” Rice liked the comment so much that he built a funk groove around it, then gave the song to the Staples. “This is the song I’ve been waiting [for],” said producer [Al] Bell.
Producer Al Bell teamed the group with the storied Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, musicians who laid down classic tracks for Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin, and with engineer/musician Terry Manning for vocals, overdubs, and mixing, in Memphis. The song had resonance for a burgeoning self-empowerment movement for African-Americans during the post-civil-rights-movement 1970s, as well as women demanding more respect during those same years, but the message had a universal and inspirational appeal.