The Black National Anthem – A Day in History

America has a National Anthem!  African-Americans have the “Black National Anthem as well as the National Anthem!”  It is entitled “Life Every Voice and Sing,” written in around 1900 by James Weldon Johnson and set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson.   Initially, it was a poem written  to celebrate the birthday of President Abraham Lincoln.  However, because it was embraced so forcefully by African American churches, school assemblies and graduation ceremonies, the National Association for the Advancement of  Colored People (NAACP) adopted it as the “black national Anthem.”

Several music teachers in the City of Detroit included it as part of the curriculum for  music students Third Grade and above … with emphasis placed on pride, respect and unity among black people.

The Black National Anthem (1900)

Words: James Weldon Johnson
Music: John Rosamond Johnson


Rosamond Johnson, photo by Carl Van Vechten(1933) Composer and Singer


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 faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of 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 hast 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.

Lift Every Voice and Sing (The Black National Anthem)
Submitted by the Staff