“Lift Every Voice and Sing”

“Lift Every Voice and Sing”


James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) was an American poet and academic, as well as an early civil rights activist. He originally wrote “Lift Every Voice and Sing”—which celebrated the gains of African Americans since the Civil War and offered hope for the future—as a poem. His brother set it to music, and before long it was known as the “Black National Anthem.” By the 1920s, the song was pasted in the hymnals of black churches across the country.

Lift every 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. 

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 fathers sighed? 
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered 
We have come, treading our path thro’ the blood of the slaughtered, 
Out from 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 hast brought us thus far on the way; 
Thou who hast 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 meet 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.