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Lift Every Voice and Sing
James Weldon Johnson

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Lift Every Voice and Sing
by James Weldon Johnson

A poem first published in 1917.1
Written to commemorate Lincoln's 91st birthday, the poem celebrates Emancipation, evokes the preceding hardships, and prays for aid in future progress.
 


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 chast'ning 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.


1 First written in 1900 as a song with music by the poet's brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, the tune became the "Negro National Hymn" within twenty years. Attached here, following the poem, is the musical score.

PORTRAIT: James Weldon Johnson by Winold Reiss.
CITATION INFORMATION (in MLA format): Johnson, James Weldon, and J. Rosamond Johnson. "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Gleeditions, 17 Apr. 2011, www.gleeditions.com/lifteveryvoiceandsing/students/pages.asp?lid=302&pg=4. Originally published on Cyberhymnal, 7 Aug. 2007, www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/l/i/liftevry.htm.
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