Lift Every Voice and Sing
“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 exercise. 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 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 elation, almost of exquisite anguish, whenever I hear them sung by Negro children." - James Weldon Johnson, 1935
Lift every voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list'ning 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 chast'ning 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.
“the school children…kept singing it”
NPR.org, August 16, 2018, Heard on Morning Edition by Claudette Lindsay-Habermann: Till Victory Is Won: The Staying Power Of 'Lift Every Voice And Sing.' "Lift Every Voice and Sing" is a song many African-Americans know from school or church. But if you didn't hear it there, you may know it from one of a few landmark performances. Read More
Beyoncé - Intro/Crazy In Love/Freedom/Lift Every Voice And Sing/Formation (Coachella Weekend 1). Beyoncé performing at Coachella on April 14, 2018. Listen to “Lift Every Voice and Sing” rendition at 9:00-min mark.
The Washington Post, April 16, 2018 by Samantha Schmidt: ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’: The story behind the ‘black national anthem’ that Beyoncé sang. In 1899, a young poet and school principal named James Weldon Johnson was asked to address a crowd in Jacksonville, Fla., for the coming anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Just two decades had passed since the Reconstruction era, and lynchings were on the rise in the segregated South. Instead of preparing an ordinary speech, Johnson decided to write a poem. He began with a simple but powerful line, a call to action: “Lift ev’ry voice and sing.” Read More
Mormon Tabernacle Choir 2018
Kennedy Center 2011
Howard University 2010
Black History Month 1985
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