“A group of young men in Jacksonville, Florida, arranged to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday in 1900,” James Weldon Johnson recalled. “My brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, and I decided to write a song to be sung at the exercise. I wrote the words and he wrote the music.”
Needless to say, the song became known as the Negro National Anthem, and hardly any event of African-American importance begins without the audience singing at least the first stanza.
That we offer the entire anthem here as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday is propitious given the popularity of Steven Spielberg’s new film “Lincoln.” No, it’s not a perfect film, but it is a vast improvement over the Hollywood travesties of the past.
And this is certainly a time to “Lift Every Voice,” with the lingering effects of Hurricane Sandy still felt by many suffering Americans.
Lift every voice and sing,
till earth and heav’n 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.
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 a path through the blood of the slaughtered
out of the gloomy past till 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 on the path we pray
lest our feet stray from the places oh God where we met thee
lest our heart 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.