Lift Every Voice and Sing

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” - the hymn known as the Black National Anthem was a hastily written poem, penned by James Weldon Johnson when he was 29 years old. He wrote it for an Abraham Lincoln celebration at an all-black school in Florida. His brother set it to music.

The brothers were part of what is now Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, where their mother was the choir director. Even though they wrote a number of songs together, this one became the most beloved – adopted as the theme song of the NAACP in 1919, and later used by the Civil Rights movement. Parents and churches still make sure their children know the words to this song. One church that I frequented in Kansas City, St. James UMC, sings it every Sunday. (Yes, every Sunday.)

We sing it in honor of the Civil Rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King. It is praise, lament, and prayer. Our hymnal lists it in the category of “Strength in Tribulation." We sing it for those who have come through tribulation, and those in the midst of tribulation. We sing it to remember the journey.

Peace, Jeannie