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YYGS Music and Power: U.S. Race Relations: Lift Every Voice and Sing

A guide for the Yale Young Global Scholars class on Music and Power.

Manuscript of Lift Every Voice and Sing


Manuscript in the hand of composer J. Rosamond Johnson, 

with the heading "Dedicated to Miss Marian Anderson"

Google Doc for this Topic

General Information

The song “Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing,” written by James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson at the turn of the twentieth century, is often known today as the Black National Anthem and is sung in schools, churches, and civic settings throughout the United States. The brothers wrote the song in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1900 for the students of Stanton Institute, where James was the principal, to sing as part of a celebration of the birthday of Abraham Lincoln. The hymn rather took on a life of its own, being passed along from those students to later students and to churches, becoming well-known in southern African-American communities. When James became Field Secretary for the NAACP, the song became the anthem of the NAACP. In recent years, African-Americans have sometimes sung "Lift Every Voice" as an alternative to the national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The Hymn

The Anthem