Hymn #593: Lift Every Voice and Sing

James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) earned two degrees at Atlanta University and became a public-school teacher and principal in Jacksonville, Florida.  He wrote this text for a celebration commemorating Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12, 1921, and it was performed by schoolchildren.

James Weldon Johnson, a multitalented poet, lawyer, and diplomat, served as the first national executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and this anthem became that organization’s official song.  Johnson also founded the first African American newspaper, the Daily American.

John Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954) composed this tune, called LIFT EVERY VOICE, for his brother’s text.  He collected and published a number of important collections of African American songs and hymn tunes in addition to performing on the stage, composing, and directing musicals.

J. Rosamond Johnson was educated at the New England Conservatory of Music and studied further in Europe.  From 1896 until 1908, he served as supervisor of music for the public school system of Jacksonville, Florida.  Collecting African American music was his lifelong pursuit.