February 20, 2020

HARMONY OF LIBERTY:

The story of "Lift Every Voice and Sing": A song many consider the black national anthem rises again in the United States. (ROBBY BERMAN, 19 February, 2020, Big Think)

The contemporary re-emergence of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" arguably began when Beyoncé sang its opening lines as she took the stage at the Coachella festival, a watershed moment in and of itself. The first black woman to headline the festival, the singer delivered a dazzling knockout performance that was dedicated to historically black colleges. When Beyoncé sings a song it gets heard, and this performance helped bring "Lift Every Voice and Sing" straight onto America's playlist.

The song was written long ago and began as a poem by James Weldon Johnson.

A group of young men in Jacksonville, Florida, arranged to celebrate Lincoln's birthday in 1900. My brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, and I decided to write a song to be sung at the exercises. I wrote the words and he wrote the music. -- James Weldon Johnson

According to "Anthem: Social Movements and the Sound of Solidarity in the African Diaspora" by Shana L. Redmond, Johnson later recalled, "I could not keep back the tears, and made no effort to do so."

Our New York publisher, Edward B. Marks, made mimeographed copies for us, and the song was taught to and sung by a chorus of five hundred colored school children. Shortly afterwards my brother and I moved away from Jacksonville to New York, and the song passed out of our minds. But the school children of Jacksonville kept singing it; they went off to other schools and sang it; they became teachers and taught it to other children. Within twenty years it was being sung over the South and in some other parts of the country. Today the song, popularly known as the Negro National Hymn, is quite generally used. -- James Weldon Johnson

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) named "Lift Every Voice and Sing" the "black national anthem" in 1919, but not everyone agrees with that designation since it implies the need for a separate American black anthem. Nonetheless, listening to this American hymn is a haunting, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting experience.




Posted by at February 20, 2020 7:14 AM

  

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