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Entertaining and compelling real-life stories. The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on August 18th 2020
James Weldon Johnson: Writer of the beautiful "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," now commonly called the "Black National Anthem."

James Weldon Johnson
James Weldon Johnson
photo: si.edu

James (1871 - 1938) was a writer and educator when as principal of a Florida segregated school, in 1899, he wrote this as a poem to honor Abraham Lincoln's birthday.

Later, with music written by his brother John Rosamond Johnson, it became the anthem for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Why do we care today?

(Story continues from "Read More")

Because it is performed at many African American churches.

And in response to mass protesting led by Black Lives Matter, the National Football League will play it when its 2020 - 2021 season opens.

It was sung to celebrate Nelson Mandela's 1990 prison release, at President Obama's 2008 inauguration, and by Beyonce at Coachella in 2018.

It is a beautiful message of hope. If you would like to hear it, and read it's lyrics:

As for James, he continued to do all in his power to uplift humanity:

He became an attorney, the first African American to pass the Florida Bar.

He and his wife, Grace Nail Johnson, were for many years leaders of the NAACP peacefully seeking equal rights for black people and an end to lynching.

James was also a leader of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920's and 30's, well known for his poems and novels and for documenting black culture.

During that time, he and his brother John also wrote an estimated 200 songs.

And finally:

In 1934, he became the first African American professor at New York University and subsequently became a professor at historically black Fisk University.

Editor's Note: To learn more, click here, here and here.

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