Prominent Black Brothers; John Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson

John Rosamond Johnson was an American composer and singer during the Harlem Renaissance. Johnson is known for composing the hymn of our very own “Negro National Anthem” -- “Lift Every Voice and Sing”.  John’s brother, James Weldon Johnson, wrote the lyrics of the historic piece.

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" started off as a poem and was soon adopted by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). This piece made history being performed in front of Abraham Lincoln for his birthday celebration by 500 students from the segregated Stanton School in Jacksonville, Florida. "Lift Every Voice and Sing" put Johnson on the map for one of the most successful men of early African American composers. Today, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" is one of the most well-known and treasured song of the African American Civil Rights Movement and, as I mentioned before, our black national anthem. It is very common in African American churches for the congregation to sing "Lift Every Voice and Sing" in their hymns every black history month to honor the late great James Johnson.

Lift every 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 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.