UPDATED: 8:40 a.m. ET, Feb. 12, 2021:
While the “Star Spangled Banner,” America’s national anthem, has been sung for nearly two centuries, many African Americans throughout the years have sung a different tune.
“Lift Every Every Voice And Sing,” a poem written by literary pioneer James Weldon Johnson, is often dubbed “The Black National Anthem.” The poem was originally performed in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12, 1900, and was later set to music in 1905 by Johnson’s brother John Rosamond.
For many African Americans, singing the song was their way of showing patriotism and hope for the future, considering the plight of racism they greatly faced. Deep symbolism was found in its lyrics, allowing African-Americans to subtly speak against racial bigotry. It is heavily performed at predominately African-American venues, especially in Black churches across the nation.
In 1990, singer Melba Moore released a modern rendition of the song, which she recorded along with others including recording artists Anita Baker, Stephanie Mills, Dionne Warwick, Bobby Brown, Stevie Wonder, Jeffrey Osborne, Howard Hewett BeBe & CeCe and The Clark Sisters.
Today the song is an integral piece of Black patriotism.
It’s also gained increasing relevance in recent months amid a purported racial reckoning as the U.S. takes slow steps to address inequalities facing Black people in all walks of life.
As a candidate, President Joe Biden named his plan for Black America the “Lift Every Voice” plan addresses some of the stereotypical topics associated with Black people, like gun violence and criminal justice. But it also sets aside funding for issues stemming from the disproportionate effect that COVID-19 has had on Black people, including the shuttering of Black-owned businesses.
Conversely, Biden ally and South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn even went so far as to suggest that “Lift Every Voice and Sing” should become America’s national hymn in an effort to heal racial wounds. But writer Anoa Changa suggested such a move could ultimately betray the true and original intentions of the song.
“Clyburn’s suggestion isn’t about what is better for Black people; it’s about what will make whiteness comfortable,” Changa wrote in response to Clyburn’s proposal last month. “Leaders should be using this moment to unequivocally stand firm against the rise of fascism and white nationalist violence coupled with agenda-setting to help uplift communities across the country.”
Below is a video of John Legend performing his rendition of “Lift Every Voice And Sing” during the virtual commencement exercises hosted by Morehouse School of Medicine in May 2020.
Vintage Photos Of Black History Being Made In America
1. Harriet TubmanSource:Getty 1 of 40
2. Martin Luther King and civil rights leadersSource:Getty 2 of 40
3. Black PanthersSource:Getty 3 of 40
4. Tuskeegee AirmenSource:Getty 4 of 40
5. Books Are Weapons PosterSource:Getty 5 of 40
6. World War II 93rd InfantrySource:Getty 6 of 40
7. Rosa ParksSource:Getty 7 of 40
8. Integrated Classroom in North CarolinaSource:Getty 8 of 40
9. African American Students Enter High School with Military EscortSource:Getty 9 of 40
10. Lunchcounter Protest in VirginiaSource:Getty 10 of 40
11. Harry Belafonte Leads Civil Rights RallySource:Getty 11 of 40
12. Malcolm X's FuneralSource:Getty 12 of 40
13. Martin Luther King's FuneralSource:Getty 13 of 40
14. Lynching Victim Hanging Above CrowdSource:Getty 14 of 40
15. W.E.B. DuBoisSource:Getty 15 of 40
16. Booker T. WashingtonSource:Getty 16 of 40
17. The 369th, 15th New York who won the Croix de Guerre for GallantrySource:Getty 17 of 40
18. Mutilated Corpse of Claude NealSource:Getty 18 of 40
19. Segregated FountainSource:Getty 19 of 40
20. Womens Defense Corp of AmericaSource:Getty 20 of 40
21. Crowd Waiting to Enter Supreme CourtSource:Getty 21 of 40
22. Black Students Integrate Little Rock's Central High SchoolSource:Getty 22 of 40
23. Troops Watch as Black Students Go to SchoolSource:Getty 23 of 40
24. Segregated RestroomsSource:Getty 24 of 40
25. Portrait Of Medgar EversSource:Getty 25 of 40
26. Separate Waiting RoomSource:Getty 26 of 40
27. Race riots in Birmingham, Alabama.Source:Getty 27 of 40
28. A White Man Bars African-Americans From RestaurantSource:Getty 28 of 40
29. Myrlie Evers Speaking at MicrophoneSource:Getty 29 of 40
30. A Young MarcherSource:Getty 30 of 40
31. Civil Rights FightersSource:Getty 31 of 40
32. Elijah MuhammadSource:Getty 32 of 40
33. Anti Segregation In The Southern Stores March At Broadway In New YorkSource:Getty 33 of 40
34. Selma to Montgomery MarchSource:Getty 34 of 40
35. Selma to Montgomery MarchSource:Getty 35 of 40
36. Soldiers at Civil Rights ProtestSource:Getty 36 of 40
37. Luther King's FuneralSource:Getty 37 of 40
38. Coretta Scott KingSource:Getty 38 of 40
39. 'Kidnapped' Poster At Black Panther RallySource:Getty 39 of 40
40. 'Right On!' Black Power ButtonSource:Getty 40 of 40
The True Story Of OUR National Anthem, ‘Lift Every Voice And Sing’ was originally published on newsone.com