Lift Every Voice And Sing

Our nation once again celebrated the embodiment of all things “America” on Sunday with Superbowl LXIII. Throughout the country, ungodly amounts of chicken wings, nachos, chile, and beer were devoured by football fans accompanied by fans of Usher, flashy TV ads, and Taylor Swift. According to Nielson, there were 123.7 million of us watching it, setting the record for most-watched U.S. program ever. Together we laughed at the funny commercials, teared up during the National Anthem, and enjoyed an exciting football game that went into overtime.   

Unlike last year, we did not see two Black quarterbacks face each other (“Why Is It Always About Race?” Why It’s Important to Note Black Americans and Their Contributions in History. | Newtown Allies For Change), yet race remained front and center in the national conversation surrounding the hallowed ritual that is the Super Bowl. If we can gather together as a country to watch two teams–one from the West Coast and one from the Midwest–made up of Americans from all walks of life, why can’t everyone embrace the singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”? What is it with that song that causes so much outrage? 

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” is a hymn that is widely considered to be the “Black National Anthem”. Written from the context of African Americans in the late 19th century, the hymn is a prayer of thanksgiving to God as well as a prayer for faithfulness and freedom, with imagery that evokes the biblical Exodus from slavery to the freedom of the “promised land.” When reflecting upon the history of Black people in our country, it is easy to understand why the hymn has been embraced as a call for equity and to continue marching towards equal rights. 

During the summer of 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, many in the country rose up together to protest police brutality and the unequal treatment of Black Americans in our justice system. After, some would say, bungling their response to players kneeling at games during the National Anthem, the National Football League (NFL) committed to playing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” before all 16 of the season opening games. The singing of the hymn at the Super Bowl has become an increasingly important part of the pre-game ceremony. A pre-recorded rendition by Alicia Keys was shown before Super Bowl LV in 2021. In 2022, it was performed outside of the stadium by the gospel duo Mary Mary. Actress Sheryl Lee Ralph accepted the invitation to lift her voice and sing on the field in 2023, as did Andra Day this year.

According to Statista, approximately 56.4% of NFL players in 2022 were Black. Maybe white fans can learn a little something by listening to a song that has so much meaning and tradition for more than half of the players in the league? Or do they just want them to shut up and play? Much of the criticism coming from white fans is that the NFL shouldn’t be promoting a “separate anthem”; that by doing so, they are promoting racial division. Some go so far as to suggest that “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is proof that Black people are trying to elevate themselves above white people. 


There is nothing in the lyrics affirming Black superiority over any racial group; rather, the song is a proclamation of confidence and trust in God not to get discouraged and tired along the way in fighting for freedom.

That seems more American than football and Buffalo wings.

Lift Every Voice and Sing

By James Weldon Johnson

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening 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 chastening 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 through 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 has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has 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 met 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.

1 comment

  1. Thank you for posting lyrics. So often people are afraid or angered about something that they really don’t understand. They THINK it’s bad or they HEARD it was making the divide wider. It is important to educate ourselves, and pass it on.

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