Home > Uncategorized > February 12 – Black National Anthem

February 12 – Black National Anthem

On this day, February 12, 1900, James Weldon Johnson wrote a poem that would later be set to music and become known as the “Negro National Anthem” (and later, the “African-American National Anthem”). What was the name of this poem/song?…

Johnson first wrote “Lift Every Voice and Sing” when he was the principal of the famous Stanton College Preparatory School in Jacksonville, Florida. The school was hosting its annual President Abraham Lincoln birthday celebration, and Johnson wrote the poem to introduce Booker T. Washington, their honored guest that year. 500 of his students recited the poem at the event.

Five years later, James’s brother, John Johnson, set the words to music. Singing this song soon became a preferred method amongst Blacks to express their patriotism and hope for the future while simultaneously speaking out subtly against racism, Jim Crow laws, and the racial violence they endured.

In 1919, the NAACP officially adopted the song as “The Negro National Anthem.” By the 1920s, copies of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” could be found in black churches across the country, often pasted into the hymnals. During the Civil Rights movement, the song surged once again in popularity, and was typically sung immediately following the American National Anthem at public events where there was a significant population of African-Americans.

Please look below for a copy of the lyrics and a link to the song.

thanks for reading,


Lift every voice and sing,
‘Til 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 ’til victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast’ning 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.

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