A piece of American history got national attention again, recently. The song “Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing” was sung at the start of Michigan’s electoral vote ceremony for the 2020 election. The song, which is also known as the “Black National Anthem,” was sung by two sisters after the Star-Spangled Banner.
The song sparked a debate over whether the nation should have two separate national anthems for black and white Americans. Some criticized the song, saying that it was meant to replace the regular national anthem. Others say the song is a part of the nation’s history and is not meant to become America’s official song.
In 1899, a man named James Weldon Johnson wrote a poem to celebrate the birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, who is known for ending slavery in the United States. He gave the poem to his brother John Rosamond Johnson, a musician, who put the words to music. This is how “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” was born. James Weldon Johnson was a principal at a school in Jacksonville, Florida, and the song was first performed in front of 500 children.
The country had abolished slavery, but some states made laws to oppress black people and ensure that they did not live equally to white people.
Black Americans embraced the song because it spoke to their desires to be treated equally. Its lyrics were a prayer to bring positive change for African Americans. They were also about leading a person out of hard times. The song united blacks and whites in the pursuit of freedom and equality.
In 1905, Booker T. Washington, a historical black leader, endorsed the song. It became the official theme of the National Association For The Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which was a group that fought for equality. This is when the song was given the “Black National Anthem” nickname.
While the song was common in the black community, especially in churches, it was sung by white Americans as well. White churches in the South wrote to James Weldon Johnson, telling him that “we are singing that song you called the black national anthem.”
“Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” is one of the most popular historical songs in black American culture. But it is also an important part of American history. The song urges all Americans to lift every voice and sing for liberty and freedom.