It was a Sunday near Martin Luther King Jr. day, my senior year of college, and I was visiting a church I had never attended before with two of my roommates. Near the close of the service, we sang a stirring and unfamiliar song. At the bottom of the music, I read, “African-American National Anthem.”
My first thought was, “There’s an African-American national anthem??”
After church, I asked one of my roommates, who was black, about it. She told me she grew up singing that song every morning in school. I had never known it even existed. The gaps still existing in our society between cultures—and races—struck me afresh, along with how very little I really knew of cultures and backgrounds different from my own.
This week, one of my critique partners shared with the rest of us that her daughter was in a Black History program that night and they always closed with the “Negro National Anthem.” She included a YouTube link to the song for us, as she knows her “white sisters” like learning from her more about her African-American culture and history. I watched the link and recognized the song I’d first heard three years ago.
And so on this last night of African-American history month (I know, squeaking in under the wire here!), I wanted to share with you what she shared with us. If you’re not familiar with this bit of our country’s history, click here—I think you’ll be blessed. I know I was, and moved, and helped to see just a bit more through the eyes of others who make up this nation. I’m so grateful for my friends from other backgrounds and cultures who’ve reached out to me and shared themselves and their stories and past with me…you know who you are. And I’m grateful, though we still have so far to go, for the progress this song reminds us has been made in our land, for the greater understanding and unity and equality that God is helping us toward even now, I believe.
As James Weldon Johnson wrote in this song over a century ago, “Let us march on till victory is won.”
P.S. A commenter posted a link to such a beautiful Acapella version of the song I wanted to share it also. Enjoy!
Thanks for blogging on this topic! “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” has always held a special place in my heart, whether recited as a poem or sung corporately. Its theme of restoration has given me so much hope for the future, and I believe others in this country share my testimony. In fact, a verse from the poem was recited in our last Presidential Inauguration. I do believe progress has been made–culturally,and within our nation. Through faith, we’ve broken many chains. Through faith, we’ll link together as one.
It truly is a powerful song–it’s been in my head a lot the last few days. Yes, Lord, may it be so.
Kiersti, thanks for your honesty. Fact is, there are probably a good many Af-Am youth around your age who don’t know of the anthem, as well, and that’s probably more tragic than you not knowing. As the old folks would say, You can’t know where you’re going, unless you know where you’ve been. Here’s a link to a rendering of Lift Every Voice by the group Acapella. When I first heard this (it was on a cassette tape–remember those??) of patriotic songs from Acapella. I knew the anthem, but this brought me to tears. It was so well done. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52EbbKbRYLA Keep growing and learning.
Wow…that was incredible. I feel like redoing my post now so I can include that link! Maybe I’ll add it. Thank you so much for sharing, Katherine, and for your encouragement…may the Lord bless you.
Kiersti, YES! This is such a beautiful and stirring anthem, and I’m so glad you’re sharing it with those who may not know it. Learning about other cultures and building relationships across the color line enriches our own lives so much! Amen and amen.
Author, The Yada Yada Prayer Group and House of Hope novels
Thank you so much, Neta! I was so excited when Sandra told me she knew you…I grew up on your Trailblazer books. 🙂 Thank you for your encouragement.