Lift every voice and sing,
‘Til 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 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 ’til 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,
‘Til 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 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,
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.
My friend Melanie posted these lyrics, written in 1900, on her Facebook page today and wrote: “The words of J. W. Johnson ring truer than ever.”
Those of us outside the African-American community may not know of or appreciate the cultural significance of this song, which was adopted as the “Negro National Anthem” by the NAACP in 1919. (Late last century, “Lift Every Voice And Sing” would be entered into the Congressional Record as the official African American National Hymn.)
We may have also missed Rev. Joseph Lowery paraphrasing the third stanza in the Inaugural Benediction today. But certainly this was not lost on our African-American brothers and sisters.
On this amazing day in the history of our nation, I would like to honor not just President Obama, but all African-Americans, past and present, who by their toil, patience, suffering, and tears have made today possible.
Let freedom ring!