Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Lift Every Voice and Sing

Recently the NFL announced that they would play the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at the start of each game during Week 1 along with the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Many may not know that there is a strong Diesel Era connection with the song.

First, here's some background for those not familiar with the song. "Lift Every Voice and Sing" was originally a poem written by James Weldon Johnson in 1900. Later, in 1905, J. Rosamond Johnson, the brother of James Weldon Johnson, set it to music. The poem and song  “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” are written as a prayer of thanksgiving for freedom. “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” is found in numerous Christian hymnals across the US.

There are two Diesel Era connections to the song. The term “Black National Anthem” comes from when the NAACP dubbed it the “Negro National Anthem" in 1919. Later, in 1939, the African-American sculptor Augusta Savage received a commission from the New York World's Fair. She created a 16-foot plaster sculpture called “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which some called “The Harp.”  Unfortunately, because Savage lacked the funds to have it cast in bronze or to move it, the sculpture was destroyed when the fair closed.

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