'Lift Every Voice and Sing' lyrics in full: 'Black national anthem' is a tribute to courage
'Lift Every Voice and Sing' was publicly performed first as a poem as part of a celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birthday
American actress and vocalist Vanessa Williams is gearing up to perform the song 'Lift Every Voice and Sing,' which is widely known as the Black National Anthem, when hosting PBS's 41st annual 'A Capitol Fourth' celebration, which will be airing on Sunday, July 4, 2021. Written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson in 1900 and set to music by his brother, John Rosamond Johnson, 'Lift Every Voice and Sing' was publicly performed first as a poem as part of a celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birthday by John Johnson. Here are the lyrics to the entire song:
Lift every voice and sing,
'Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the 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 'til 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,
'Til 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,
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
According to the NAACP, a choir of 500 schoolchildren of the segregated Stanton School, where James Weldon Johnson was principal, first performed the song in public in Jacksonville, Florida to celebrate Lincoln's birthday.
'Lift Every Voice and Sing' "eloquently captured the solemn yet hopeful appeal for the liberty of Black Americans", the site said, adding, "Set against the religious invocation of God and the promise of freedom." Soon afterwards, the song was adopted by NAACP, and was prominently used as a rallying cry during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
In a statement on its website, NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson said the song "spoke to the history of the journey of African-Americans and for many Africans in the diaspora [who] struggled through to get to a place of hope."
In an interview with The Associated Press that was published on Friday, July 2, 2021, Williams said that she will be singing the anthem as a way to promote Juneteenth. “It’s in celebration of the wonderful opportunity that we now have to celebrate Juneteenth. So we are reflective of the times."
Williams, who is the first Black woman to be crowned Miss America, told the publication that the song had allowed her to address "just the connection that you have with your child and wanting to protect them, which was definitely reflective of George Floyd and how everybody felt that pain."
This development comes amid the controversy triggered by two-time Olympian Gwen Berry during the US team trials for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics after after she turned away from the American flag while the national anthem was playing. Berry believes the anthem is 'disrespectful' to Black Americans.
"I never said that I hated the country. I never said that. All I said was I respect my people enough to not stand for or acknowledge something that disrespects them. I love my people. Point blank, period," she explained herself.
"If you know your history, you know the full song of the National Anthem, the third paragraph speaks to slaves in America, our blood being slain...all over the floor. It's disrespectful and it does not speak for Black Americans. It's obvious. There's no question."