Lift Every Voice and Sing, otherwise known as the Black National Anthem, was originally written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) then set to music by his brother, John Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954) in 1899. This post-reconstruction song is about Black perseverance and persistence through the struggle of slavery and the attempt of our country to rebuild equality for all. The song was first performed by 500 school children to commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12, 1900, in Jacksonville, Florida, where the Johnsons were raised. The song eventually made its way to the Harlem arts scene where it became a symbol for Black communities and is still performed today. You can listen to this version by Kirk Franklin, which was shared with middle and upper school students during chapel last week. (*click the headline or READ MORE in the eNews to learn more).
Amazing Grace is another gospel song that will be shared with students during chapel this upcoming week. John Newton wrote this song in 1772 as a way to renounce his prior role as a slave trader. As an abolitionist, Newton also was an ordained priest in the Church of England. Interestingly, Newton’s hymn was not set to the music we currently know as Amazing Grace until much later in the civil rights movement. This version by the Harlem Gospel Choir is simply beautiful.