Battling sexual assault allegations that have recently dogged his presidential candidacy, the presumptive Democratic nominee on Monday made an effort to appeal to the bread and butter of his support base — Black people — by naming his new plan for African Americans after the Negro National Anthem.
Joe Biden‘s “Lift Every Voice” plan addresses some of the stereotypical topics associated with Black people, like gun violence and criminal justice, but also would set aside funding for issues stemming from the disproportionate affect that COVID-19 has had on Black people. “Lift Every Voice And Sing” is the name of what was first a poem before it became a song also known as the Negro National Anthem.
The plan also calls for more funding to help Black-owned businesses. Ninety-five percent of Black-owned businesses were projected to miss out on the Small Business Administration loans provided by the federal stimulus package.
The announcement on Monday seemed to be Biden’s most comprehensive response to how the coronavirus has ravaged the country’s Black communities. It may have also been an effort to deflect from the negative attention his campaign has sustained from the allegations from Tara Reade, Biden’s former senatorial aide who has publicly accused him of sexually assaulting her in the 1990s. In fact, it seems that Biden has spent more time addressing those accusations that he has addressed Black people (except when he said last month that he would not commit to picking a Black woman as his vice-presidential running mate.)
Biden pushed past Bernie Sanders in the early presidential primaries thanks in no small part to Black voters, who turned out for him in a major way, especially across the south. The surge of support forced other candidates to drop out of the race, leaving Biden as the presumptive nominee. As New York magazine’s Intelligencer put it, “Joe Biden Owes It All to African-American Voters.” Monday’s announcement seemed to be his first acknowledgment of that coveted voting bloc since before the coronavirus pandemic forced people to socially distance themselves from one another.
Given that Biden routinely points to his experience with Barack Obama, it follows that the former vice president might name his new plan for the same song that the 44th president once famously sang with Smokey Robinson more than a decade ago. “Lift Every Voice And Sing” also has other significant presidential ties: The poem was originally performed in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on Feb. 12, 1900, and was later set to music in 1905 by Johnson’s brother John Rosamond.
Today, the song is an integral piece of Black patriotism.