LIFT EV'RY VOICE and SINGlyrics for everyone
“Everyone should have a copy of this song.”
This statement was made by Queen Mother Reverend Helen Sinclair, Executive Director of Jessie “Ma” Houston Prison Outpost of Rainbow Push Coalition. Everyone, indeed, should have a copy of this song, not only those served by the Prison Outpost, but those of other races, genders, creeds, and ages.
The song’s author, James Weldon Johnson, whose brother composed the music, was so extraordinary a human being that his life – and writings flowing from that life – offer a treasure trove of inspiration to all who will look.
He was influential in many fields of endeavor including, education, literature, politics, diplomacy, civil rights, cultural preservation and others. As head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the 1920s he led “determined civil rights campaigns in an effort to remove legal, political, and social obstacles hindering Black achievement.”
Despite serving in this and other demanding public posts he wrote prolifically throughout. He penned novels, poems, and non- fiction works including cultural histories and his autobiography Along This Way.
His best-known work, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” is a song widely performed. Considered a “tribute to Black endurance, hope and religious faith,” it was adopted by the NAACP and is now often referred to as “The Black National Anthem.”
James Weldon Johnson’s personal creed gives a glimpse into the wellspring of his life and writings:
“I will not allow one prejudiced person or one million or one hundred million to blight my life. I will not allow prejudice or any of its attendant humiliations and injustices to bear me down to spiritual defeat. My inner life is mine, and I shall defend and maintain its integrity against all the powers of hell.”
This is a creed that – when adopted – can empower everyone’s life.