“Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” was originally a poem written by James Weldon Johnson in 1899. It was first performed on February 12, 1900 by school children in celebration of President Lincoln’s birthday. Set to music by Johnson’s brother, the poem became the NAACP’s official song and is often referred to as the Black National Anthem. In the late 1970s and early ’80s, members of the Portland chapter of the Black United Front often started their meetings by singing the song.
Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing
Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
let our rejoicing rise,
high as the listening skies, let it resound loud as the rolling sea
sing a song full of 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 day that 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 star is cast.
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
thou who has 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,
least our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee,
shadowed beneath the hand,
may we forever stand,
true to our God,
True to our native land.