“Lift Every Voice and Sing” is a song written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson, an American writer and civil rights activist, in 1900 and set to music by his brother J. Rosamond Johnson in 1905. A prayer of thanksgiving for faithfulness and freedom, evocative of the biblical Exodus from slavery to the freedom of the Promised Land, it was publicly performed first as a part of a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Since 1919, it has often been referred to as the Black national anthem, as dubbed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), for its power in voicing a cry for liberation and affirmation for African-American people. It has become tradition to sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” on Juneteenth.
Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
‘Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning 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,
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.
Background based on, and lyrics taken from, Wikipedia’s entry for “Lift Every Voice and Sing”.
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The featured image is an image taken on Juneteenth Emancipation Day Celebration, June 19, 1900, Texas. It is in the public domain and appears here, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.