In 1990 “. Lift Every Voice and Sing” was entered into the U. S. Congressional
Record as the Official Negro National Anthem.
In 2017 it was added to the United States National Recording Registry Preserved by
the Library of Congress as an ‘American Aural Treasure’ . Ms. Moore said “At the
time, I was seeking to restore the standing of the song among young African-
Americans. They had nothing to identify themselves equally as other Americans.”
The Hymn was written at a pivotal time, when Jim Crow was replacing slavery and
African Americans were searching for an identity. Author and activist James Weldon
Johnson wrote the words as a poem, which his brother John then set to music. In
1919, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
dubbed it the Negro national hymn" for its power in voicing a cry for liberation and
affirmation for African-American people ”
In 1990 Melba Moore and friends lead the movement for this ‘National Aural
Treasure’ to be entered into the Congressional Record, she worked with the
National Council of Negro Women, The King Center (Mrs. Coretta Scott King),
National Congress of Black Women, U. S. Congressional Black Caucus, the
NAACP, The National Action Network Founder/ Al Sharpton, and other various civil rights organizations and leaders, etc., to encourage President George H. W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States to recognize “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as the official Negro National Hymn/Anthem.
The song with text written by James Weldon Johnson in 1900 and set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson in 1905, the hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing” has served as the “Black National Anthem” since its adoption by the NAACP in 1919. As with “The Star-Spangled Banner,” no single recording captures the hymn’s essence or its overall meaning to Americans.
Why did James Weldon Johnson write lift every voice and sing?
"Lift Every Voice and Sing"
After evolving into a song, it became so popular among African Americans, the NAACP named “Lift Every Voice and Sing” the “Negro National Anthem” in 1919. This happened 12 years before Congress signed a resolution declaring “The Star-Spangled Banner” the national anthem of the United States.
It is easy to see why black Americans would gravitate towards it. In a time when Jim Crow held a menacing grip on the south, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” raised spirits, honored martyrs, and gave thanks for deliverance.
It was first performed in public in the Johnsons' hometown of Jacksonville, Florida as part of a celebration of Lincoln's Birthday on February 12, 1900 by a choir of 500 schoolchildren at the segregated Stanton School, where James Weldon Johnson was principal.
"Lift Every Voice and Sing" was publicly performed first as a poem as part of a celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birthday by Johnson's brother John. In 1919, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) dubbed it "the Negro national hymn for its power in voicing a cry for liberation and affirmation for African-American people.
The song is a prayer of thanksgiving for faithfulness and freedom, with imagery evoking the biblical Exodus from slavery to the freedom of the "promised land". "Lift Every Voice and Sing" is featured in 39 different Christian hymnals and is sung in churches across North America.
This ‘American Aural Treasure’ can be found on Ms. Moore’s 1990 album Soul Exposed, features the stellar version of James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” otherwise known as the Official Negro National Anthem, co-produced by BeBe Winans. It featured such artists as Freddie Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick, Jeffrey Osborne, Lou Gossett Jr., Bobby Brown, Anita Baker, Stephanie Mills, and gospel artists BeBe & CeCe Winans, Take 6, and The Clark Sisters, with an audio narration by Rev. Jesse Jackson, a dance by Jasmine Guy, the video was directed by Debbie Allen. Sponsors were: the NAACP, National Urban League, Capitol Records, NationalCouncil of Negro Women (Dr. Dorothy I. Height), National Congress of Black Women (Dr. C. Delores Tucker), Congressional Black Caucus, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, Dr. Betty Shabazz, Mrs. Rosa Parks, Dr. Maya Angelou, Dick Gregory, Joe Madison, William Tucker to name a few. After which “Lift Every Voice and Sing" was entered into the Congressional Record by Delegate Walter Fauntroy (D-DC), and signed by Former President George H. W. Bush
About Melba: It was in Hair that Melba became the first African American woman to replace a white actress, who happened to be the acclaimed Diane Keaton, in a lead role on Broadway. One year later, she starred in Purlie, which earned her a Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for her portrayal as Lutiebelle. At that time, Melba was one of the first Black women to win a Tony Award in a Musical. Ms. Moore was the first female pop/R&B artist to do a non-operatic solo concert at New York City's Metropolitan Opera House and at the Olympia in ParisWith over 40 years in the industry, the singer and Broadway actress continues to
create new music for fans to enjoy. In recent years, the resilient renaissance
woman's recording projects have primarily been gospel albums, including the CD
Nobody But Jesus. In 2002, she released I'm Still Here and in 2010 she released
The Gift of Love, a duet album of classic songs and unforgettable originals. This
multifaceted artist/philanthropist is always reaching deeper, pressing harder, ever
challenging herself; keeping her audience on the edge of their seats, knowing that
whatever happens next will be at least as exciting as what happened before.
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” (singles), Manhattan Harmony Four (1923); Melba
Moore and Friends (1990)
With text written by James Weldon Johnson in 1900 and set to music by his brother
John Rosamond Johnson in 1905, the hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing” has served
as the “Black National Anthem” since its adoption by the NAACP in 1919. As with
“The Star-Spangled Banner,” no single recording captures the hymn’s essence or its
overall meaning to Americans. Therefore, the registry recognizes a modernized
1990 version headed by Melba Moore. Moore sought to restore the standing of the
song among young African Americans. She reached out to BeBe Winans to help
co-produce the Hymn with other artists. Among the many participants in her latter,
all-star recording were Stevie Wonder, Anita Baker, Dionne Warwick, and Bobby
Brown. The resulting single, which benefited charity, made headlines at the time,
and helped to raise public awareness of the Johnsons’ anthem. And give African
Americans a since of pride. “Let Everybody sing the Negro National Anthem
Thank you to Ms. Moore for the inspiration you provide to singers of all genres, and we Thank You for sharing your talent and wisdom so that we may share and educate others.
Lyrics of Lift Every Voice and Sing…
Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
‘Til 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 ’til victory is won.
Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening 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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