February 12, 2021 is the 121st anniversary of the first performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a poem and hymn that has become known as the Black National Anthem.
I didn’t know about this song, let alone its position as an anthem, until this year. I keep having moments like this when it comes to Black history, which fuels my drive to keep learning and relearning.
The song is astounding. It’s powerful even without the music; it was originally written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson before being set to music by his brother. It is overflowing with imagery, hope, and liberation.
On February 12, 1900, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was performed by a choir of 500 schoolchildren in front of their segregated school to commemorate Lincoln’s birthday, and it has been an anthem of freedom ever since. This year, I’d encourage you to read the lyrics carefully: feel the powerful declarations of perseverance and the expressions of fierce intimacy with the Almighty God. Also, share it with your kids! The fact that it was first performed by children is a great connection point. You may even find them humming the melody later. Since it’s in the style of a hymn, it’s pretty memorable.
Below are the lyrics of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” followed by a video of an awesome performance. Then, at the end, I’ve made a colorful phone wallpaper with that you can save and download to celebrate the hymn’s anniversary.
I hope this encourages you in your fight against racism!
Lift Every Voice and Sing, James Weldon Johnson
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 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.
Free Phone Wallpaper: