While the “Star Spangled Banner,” America’s national anthem, has been sung for nearly two centuries, many African-Americans throughout the years sang a different tune.
“Lift Every Every Voice And Sing,” a poem written by literary pioneer James Weldon Johnson, is often dubbed “The Black National Anthem.” The poem was originally performed in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12, 1900, and was later set to music in 1905 by Johnson’s brother John Rosamond.
For many African-Americans, singing the song was their way of showing patriotism and hope for the future, considering the plight of racism they greatly faced. Deep symbolism was found in its lyrics, allowing African-Americans to subtly speak against racial bigotry. It is heavily performed at predominately African-American venues, especially in Black churches across the nation.
In 1990, singer Melba Moore released a modern rendition of the song, which she recorded along with others including recording artists Anita Baker, Stephanie Mills, Dionne Warwick, Bobby Brown, Stevie Wonder, Jeffrey Osborne, Howard Hewett, BeBe & CeCe and The Clark Sisters.
Today the song is an integral piece of Black patriotism.
Below is a video of President Barack Obama, along with prominent African-American entertainers, singing “Lift Every Voice And Sing” at a White House celebration during Black History Month: