‘The Black National Anthem’

Listen 49:46
James Weldon Johnson (back) and his brother John Rosamond Johnson.

James Weldon Johnson (back) and his brother John Rosamond Johnson.

Guest: Imani Perry

The Star-Spangled Banner became the official national anthem in 1931, but by then, many black Americans were already singing a different anthem that represented their struggle for freedom. “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was written by two brothers, James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson in 1900 to commemorate what would have been Abraham Lincoln’s 91st birthday. It quickly spread through the South and then nationwide and is today commonly known as the “black national anthem.”  IMANI PERRY, professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, has written a history of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” its social, cultural and spiritual significance.  Perry comes in to talk about her book, May We Forever Stand: The History of the Black National Anthem.

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