As we celebrate football’s return, I wanted to share some background on the spiritual song “Lift Every Voice And Sing” that you’ll see during the pageantry of the 2020 NFL Kickoff weekend.
James Weldon Johnson wrote the poem “Lift Every Voice And Sing” in the late 1800s. It was put to music in 1905 by his brother, John Rosamond Johnson, and adopted by the NAACP as its official song in 1919. As a child attending Jefferson Elementary School in the Trenton, NJ, public school system, the song was part of our morning ritual. We sang along with it right before placing our hands over our hearts and pledging allegiance to the American flag.
Many schools continue this tradition today. This Christian hymn about the struggle for freedom and equality inspires hope. It has encouraged generations of Black people that God will lead us to the promises of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. It’s as pertinent in today’s environment as it was when it was written.
The NFL is working with the James Weldon Johnson Foundation and the NAACP to share the historical significance of the song leading up to Kickoff weekend, where it will be featured before every game.
Please reflect on the inspirational meaning of “Lift Every Voice And Sing,” its rich history and how it might help to bring unity to a nation in need of healing.