Sunday Treat for Black History Month – Lift Every Voice and Sing!

sundae2“Lift Every Voice and Sing” is sometimes referred to “The African-American (or “Black” or “Negro”) National Anthem.” It was written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson in 1899 and set to music by his brother (a composer) the next year.

James Weldon Johnson, around age 30

James Weldon Johnson, around age 30

Johnson (1871-1938), was – among other things – a lawyer, politician, diplomat, author, an early activist for Civil Rights, and a professor of creative literature and writing at Fisk University. He and his brother were both considered to be significant figures in the Harlem Renaissance Movement (the flowering of Black cultural and intellectual life during the 1920’s and 1930’s that began in Harlem, New York).

Besides this poem, Johnson’s other best-know work is the book The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, which was published anonymously (at first) in 1912.

You can read the lyrics to “Life Every Voice and Sing” here, and you can hear a fabulous jazzy rendition of it performed by Ray Charles in the 1972 video below.

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3 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing this – it is indeed a treat!

  2. I knew that Johnson wrote this as a poem but had no idea that he also wrote a book.

  3. The last time I looked there were surprisingly few recordings on iTunes and the ones there weren’t all that great. I was at an event once where we got to sing it at he opening of proceedings but I have no clue what that may have been.

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