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Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing

“Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing” is a hymn originally written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson in 1899. The accompanying music was written by John Rosamond Johnson. This hymn is often known as the “Negro National Anthem” or the “Black National Anthem.” 
Author
James W Johnson
Grade Level
6-8

Lift ev’ry 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 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 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 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.

Source
This text is in the public domain.
Text Dependent Questions
Question
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” is also known as the Negro National Anthem or the Black National Anthem. Select a line from the text and explain how you believe it reflects an aspect of African-American history.
Answer
Student responses will vary.
Question
Identify the parts of the text that allude to the past. What is the significance of time in the hymn?
Answer
Responses will vary but should address the hymn’s hopeful theme that although there has been a long and painful past, time is moving toward a better future. Students might select: “Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us”; “Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod, / Felt in the days when hope unborn had died”; “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.”
Question
An anthem is a song of loyalty, praise, devotion and pride, usually special to a particular group. “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was first a poem and then a hymn set to music. What is it about the song that you think makes it an anthem?
Answer
Student responses will vary.
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