Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Black National Anthem "Lift Every Voice And Sing" (information, lyrics, videos, & comments)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post showcases five YouTube examples of the 1900 song "Lift Every Voice And Sing" that was written by James Weldon Johnson with music by his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson.

The content of this post is presented for historical, cultural, inspirational, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson for their cultural heritage. Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post, thanks to all who are featured in these videos and sound file, and thanks to the publishers of these examples on YouTube.

A version of this post is published with additional information on another blog that I voluntarily curate

This post is inspired by the dawn of national voting day in the United States (November 8, 2016). Hopefully, everyone who is eligible to vote will do so, if they have not already voted during the early voting period that occurred in some states (but regrettably not in my state of Pennsylvania).

Vote Blue! (Democratic Party)

"Facing the rising sun of our new day begun/Let us march on till victory is won."

From "Lift Every Voice and Sing" Related Poem Content Details BY JAMES WELDON JOHNSON
"A group of young men in Jacksonville, Florida, arranged to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday in 1900. My brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, and I decided to write a song to be sung at the exercises. I wrote the words and he wrote the music. Our New York publisher, Edward B. Marks, made mimeographed copies for us, and the song was taught to and sung by a chorus of five hundred colored school children.

Shortly afterwards my brother and I moved away from Jacksonville to New York, and the song passed out of our minds. But the school children of Jacksonville kept singing it; they went off to other schools and sang it; they became teachers and taught it to other children. Within twenty years it was being sung over the South and in some other parts of the country. Today the song, popularly known as the Negro National Hymn, is quite generally used.

The lines of this song repay me in an elation, almost of exquisite anguish, whenever I hear them sung by Negro children.

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Source: Complete Poems (2000)'


[A version of this post was written by Azizi Powell and published on civil rights blog on November 2014]

"Lift Every Voice And Sing" is referred to as the Black National Anthem (formerly, the Negro National Anthem). That title was probably conferred on that song by the civil rights organization, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) who adopted "Lift Every Voice And Sing" as their organization's theme song in 1919.

It's important to emphasize that referring to "Lift Every Voice And Sing" as the Black national anthem was never meant to indicate or suggest that African Americans aren't part of the United States or that most African Americans wanted to form a nation separate from the United States. Instead, referring to "Lift Every Voice And Sing" as the Black National Anthem recognizes the fact that (most) African Americans consider ourselves (and are considered by others) to be a population within the larger population of the United States.

I learned "Lift Every Voice And Sing" in the early 1960s through my membership in the junior (children and teens) branch of the NAACP civil rights organization in Atlantic City, New Jersey. During that time, everyone was supposed to stand up out of respect while singing "Lift Every Voice And Sing" and men were supposed to remove their hats.

In introducing this song during the 1973 Watts (Los Angeles, California) concert -as shown in the video below [given as Example #5] - Black activist Jesse Jackson directs the huge audience to stand and raise their fist in the black power salute while singing "Lift Every Voice And Sing". The audience did so, but that Black power salute wasn't usually done for that song or for any other song. That said, I think that the reason that Jesse Jackson added that salute to the singing of the Black national anthem was to have the mostly young adult Black people attending that concert show respect for their past, and show determination to keep on pushing for the rights that Black people are supposed to have in the United States.

My sense is that few African Americans under the age of forty years old know the words to "Lift Every Voice And Sing". I also think that few African Americans under the age of forty years old know that that song is called the "Black (African American) national anthem. "Lift Every Voice And Sing" is seldom sung at social gatherings that I've attended in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-from the late 1960s to date, including in gatherings that were considered to be afrocentric. And when that song was sung at two Black community cultural events in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the 1990s, few people knew the words without reading the lyrics in the program, and few people (besides me) stood up out of respect while singing this song. I strongly regret this relative lack of knowledge about "Lift Every Voice And Sing" -and other civil rights songs and I'm determined to do my part to address this lack of knowledge by publishing information, lyrics, and video examples of civil rights songs on this pancocojams blog and on

Example #1: LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING by Ray Charles [1972]

cavettbiter Uploaded on Feb 13, 2009

From THE DICK CAVETT SHOW. September 18, 1972. The Raelettes are: Vernita Moss, Susaye Green, Mable John, Dorothy Berry, & Estella Yarbrough.

Example #2: Aretha Franklin Lift Every Voice & Sing LIVE YouTube

Makowski Music, Published on Jun 4, 2017
I don't know the year this was recorded.

Example #3: Morehouse College Glee Club - Lift Every Voice And Sing [1978]

Charles Wagner, Uploaded on Sep 27, 2011

Morehouse College Glee Club

Wendell Whalum - Music Director and Choirmaster

Recorded 1978, Gary Indiana

Example #4: Lift Every Voice and Sing Video - The Wardlaw Brothers Tribute to Black History

wardlawbros, Published on Feb 8, 2014

Black history month is a month set aside for us to reflect on the past from which we've come. Black History Month is very important to not only the African American Race, but to all races. So many years have passed and still there are a great number of us who are filled with hatred and envy. The dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has certainly come true in many areas, however, we are still not there - and we have a long way to go. Let us love one another and please keep the "dream" alive.
I don't know the year that this was recorded.

Example #5: Wattstax THE Black National Anthem KIM WESTON [1973]

mistachuck, Published on Jul 6, 2014

100,000 Black PEople in UNITY STAND for the national BLACK Anthem

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