"Lift Every Voice and Sing" – often attributed as the Black national anthem – is a hymn penned as a poem by James Weldon Johnson in 1900 and set to music composed by his brother J. Rosamond Johnson in 1905. This hymn praises thanksgiving for devotion and deliverance, with symbolism referring to the biblical Exodus from slavery to the freedom of the "promised land". "Lift Every Voice and Sing" is included in 39 various Christian hymnals and is used in churches throughout North America.
Let us rejoice and praise the glory of God by lifting our voices to sing! This powerful hymn calls us to lift our voice and "Sing a song full of the faith." May we continue to sing God's praises through the "weary years" and the "silent tears." Read the full lyrics and history of the author, Samuel Johnson, below.
1 Lift ev'ry voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list'ning 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.
2 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 people 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,
Till now we stand at last
Where the bright gleam of our bright star is cast.
3 God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
You who have brought us thus far on the way;
You who have by your 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 you;
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine
of the world, we forget you;
Shadowed beneath your hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God, true to our native land.
Source: One in Faith #847
The Story Behind Lift Every Voice and Sing
James Weldon Johnson was the brother of composer John Johnson.
He studied literature at Atlanta University, graduated in 1894, and went on to become a song writer, anthologist, teacher, and lawyer. He was the first African-American to pass the bar in the state of Florida.
In 1901 Johnson had moved to New York City with his brother J. Rosamond Johnson to work in musical theater. Johnson composed the lyrics of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" to honor renowned educator Booker T. Washington who was visiting Stanton School when the poem was recited by 500 school children as a tribute to Abraham Lincoln's birthday.
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