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The Black National Anthem

    “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is the Black national anthem. The song was initially written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson in 1900. It was set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson in 1905.  In 1919, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) declared it “the Negro national hymn.”

    James Weldon Johnson (back) and his brother John Rosamond Johnson.

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    African-American Perspective

    Francis Scott Key wrote the poem that became the lyrics for the “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Sept. 14, 1814. It took 117 years from the time “The Star-Spangled Banner” was written until it was legally enshrined as the American national anthem in 1931.

    Key’s little-known third stanza includes these lines:

    No refuge could save the hireling and slave
    From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave

    Read the complete version of the Star Spangled Banner.

    Additional Resources:

    Mainstream Influence

    “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was first performed in 1900 at a segregated school in Jacksonville, Fla., by a group of 500 children celebrating what would have been Abraham Lincoln’s 91st birthday.

    “Lift Every Voice and Sing” Lyrics

    Lift Every Voice and Sing


    Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
    ‘Til 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 ’til 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,
    ‘Til 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 has brought us thus far on the way;
    Thou who has 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.

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