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Juneteenth: At-A-Glance: The Negro National Anthem

James Weldon Johnson

 

Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson - Poems | poets.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.naacp.org/naacp-history-james-weldon-johnson/

James Weldon Johnson was born in Jacksonville, Florida. His father was a headwaiter at a hotel and his mother was a teacher at the segregated Stanton School. Johnson grew up in a middle-class home, and his mother encouraged him to pursue an interest in reading and music. Johnson attended Stanton until he entered high school. He attended high school and college at Atlanta University. He received his bachelor’s in 1894.

 After college, Johnson pursued several endeavors. He became the principal of Stanton School, and expanded the school to include a high school.  He also began studying the law under the instruction of a white attorney. In 1898, he was admitted to the Florida Bar. Johnson continued to serve as principal, but he also began practicing law. While balancing his dual career, Johnson found time to write poetry and songs.

In 1901, Johnson decided to pursue a career in writing. Johnson and his brother, John Rosamond Johnson, left for New York City to write songs for musicals. They achieved success with the composition of around two hundred songs for Broadway.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/james-weldon-johnson

Johnson practiced law in Jacksonville for several years in partnership with a former Atlanta University classmate while continuing to serve as the Stanton School’s principal. He also continued to write poetry and discovered his gift for songwriting in collaboration with his brother Rosamond, a talented composer. Among other songs in a spiritual-influenced popular idiom, Johnson penned the lyrics to "Lift Every Voice and Sing," a tribute to Black endurance, hope, and religious faith that was later adopted by the NAACP and dubbed “the Negro National Anthem.”

 

Juneteenth 2020

Lift Every Voice

The Negro National Anthem

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 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 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 have 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 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 hears 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.