Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Lift Every Voice and Sing

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"Lift Every Voice and Sing" — often referred to as the "Black American National Anthem"— is a song written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) in 1899 and set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson (1873–1954) in 1905. It is one of the authorized hymns in the Episcopal hymnal.

History

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" was publicly performed first as a poem as part of a celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birthday on February 12, 1900, by 500 school children at the segregated Stanton School in Jacksonville, Florida. Its principal, James Weldon Johnson, wrote the words to introduce its honored guest Booker T. Washington. The poem was set to music soon after by Johnson's brother John in 1905. In 1919, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) dubbed it "The Negro National Anthem" for its power in voicing the cry for liberation and affirmation for African-American people.

In 1939, Augusta Savage received a commission from the New York World's Fair and created a 16-foot plaster sculpture called Lift Every Voice and Sing which was destroyed by bulldozers at the close of the fair.

In Maya Angelou's 1969 autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the song is sung by the audience and students at Maya's eighth grade graduation, after a white school official dashes the educational aspirations of her class.

In 1990, singer Melba Moore released a modern rendition of the song, which she recorded along with others including R&B artists Stephanie Mills, Freddie Jackson, Anita Baker, Dionne Warwick, Bobby Brown, Stevie Wonder, Jeffrey Osborne, and Howard Hewett; and gospel artists BeBe & CeCe Winans, Take 6, and The Clark Sisters, after which, "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" was entered into the Congressional Record by Del. Walter Fauntroy (D-DC),.

In 2008, jazz singer Rene Marie was asked to perform the national anthem at a civic event in Denver, Colorado, where she caused a controversy by substituting the words of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" into the song. This arrangement of the words of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" with the melody of "The Star Spangled Banner" became part of the titular suite on her 2011 CD release, "The Voice of My Beautiful Country".

On January 20, 2009, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, who was formerly president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, used a near-verbatim recitation of the song's third stanza to begin his benediction at the inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama.

On September 24, 2016, this song was sung by mezzosoprano Denyce Graves and chorus at the conclusion of the opening ceremonies of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, at which Obama delivered the keynote address.

References

Lift Every Voice and Sing Wikipedia


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