Black Anthem: Lift Every Voice and Sing – What Does it Really Say?

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Black National Anthem

In the current cultural war going on in America, all history is called into question.  Amid a national reckoning over racial tropes in culture, historian Daniel E. Walker, author Kevin Powell, and others are calling to rethink “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem, because this is about the deep-seated legacy of slavery and white supremacy in America. The anthem would join a long line of cultural mainstays that are being rebranded via the Black Lives Matters protests – word usage, monuments, books, speech, religion (removal of a white Jesus), even foods such as Eskimo Pies and Aunt Jemima syrup among them. All links to the past must either be rewritten, replaced, or canceled via “cancel culture.”

The National Football League plans to have the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” performed live or played via a recording before every Week 1 NFL game. The song is considered by many as the Black national anthem and would precede the traditional performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the official U.S. national anthem. There are even further suggestions by some that this song, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” should replace our current national anthem.

Francis Scott Key wrote the current U.S. national anthem, with his homage to the American flag, “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1814, after he watched Fort McHenry, on Baltimore Harbor, rebuff a British attack. It wasn’t until 1931, though, that Congress passed a resolution making “The Star-Spangled Banner” America’s national anthem. People have complained about it ever since. Even in 1931, many people argued in favor of the prayerful “My Country, ”Tis of Thee” (rejected because it was set to the tune of “God Save the King/Queen”) or “America the Beautiful.”

Why put any color before a national anthem? Would we need a red, yellow, brown, and God forbid a white anthem too? Dividing groups on racial lines would only serve to divide America not to unite America under a single vision of America. The mere idea of having a racial anthem will only encourage more racism, not diminish it.

Many people are surprised to learn that “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was first written as a poem. Created by James Weldon Johnson (June 17, 1871 – June 26, 1938), it was performed for the first time by 500 school children in celebration of President Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12, 1900, in Jacksonville, FL. The poem was set to music by Johnson’s brother, John Rosamond Johnson, and soon adopted by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as its official song. Today “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is one of the most cherished songs of the African American Civil Rights Movement and is often referred to as the Black national anthem.

James Weldon Johnson was an American writer and civil rights activist. He was married to civil rights activist Grace Nail Johnson. Johnson was a leader in the (NAACP), where he started working in 1917. To any Marxist student of American life, those dates must immediately call to mind the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Precisely during this time, when Blacks were just beginning to organize themselves, the labor movement of the United States accomplished one of the most astonishing mobilizations in the history of the working class. The NAACP has its origins in Marxism, and hence this song must be understood through this lens.

The other point that should be noted is that James Weldon Johnson makes a lot of references to a “God.” But in Marxism, there can be no God. So just who is the God that Johnson is referring too? Perhaps it is the Marxist ideology. Understand that in the early 1900s to not make God references would at that time be politically unacceptable. Johnson was an Atheist. In both Marxism and Atheism, in a sense, man elevates himself as God, via the power of the Marxist state.

For sure, there may be some duality in meaning within these the lyrics, but through a lens of Marxism and “the metaphoric God of an Atheist,” we must consider what the lyrics are really trying to communicate. If the Black anthem would even be considered as the generic anthem for all America, it is useful to see in detail potential meanings – and yes, be critical. The following are the lyrics of the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” with embedded critical analysis commentary: 

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,

The word “every” is an interesting choice of word. Not “Lift your voice”, or even “Lift our voices” – it is if it were a command from a collective. One could use words like “come all ye faithful” – giving an individual a choice via conditional use of the phrase. The other interesting choice of a word is “ring.” To “ring” or “arouse a response.” Is heaven sleeping and need to be rung? In another famous American hymn, America the Beautiful, God was to shed toward America his grace. Not the Earth telling God what he must listen and do. What other Biblical character ascended to heaven to try to tell God what he should do?

Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

One must be curious about what “Harmonies of Liberty” means. Are there different frequencies or types of liberties? Based on what? Race, creed, class, or some other societal hierarchy? The use of the phrase, “resounding loud seas,” presumes, God can’t hear very well. 

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,

Here is the part of this anthem that is really disgraceful. Who wants to sing of the country that has a “dark past?” America the Horrible? Really? It was the founding fathers that set up a mechanism for the first time in 1000s of years to finally unshackle the people from the dictatorial monarchies of Europe. And yes, set in motion to finally rid the Earth of slavery. And this is a dark past? Nonsense! Of course, the song says starting today, we have “hope” of eliminating this past.  

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won.

So what we are talking about here is a “march” or revolution and fight to destroy the past until “victory is won.” Oh, one more point in these phrases. What is meant by “facing the rising sun?” Sun worshiping has had a long history going back to Babylonian roots. Nimrod was called “Baal” (the “sun god” and in the occult of Satanic rituals), and his symbol became the sun.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening 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?

The anthem drones on about sadness and despair of a victimization culture. Where is the self-reliance and willingness to pull oneself through hard work? African Americans have had many opportunities to advance after the abolition of slavery – and many have. And where is this “place for which our fathers sighed?” Is it a metaphoric place, or is this an actual place – in America or somewhere else?

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 bright star is cast.

The droning of victimization continues, except it takes an even darker direction. The anthem suggests that America was all about “the blood of the slaughtered” of innocent peoples throughout its history. How can we have unity to sing about America in this manner? America has led the world to historically astounding results. Today in America (the world), we have historically fewer people dying in wars, better life longevity, education, medicine, poverty, and the list goes on – click here. Of which, ALL have benefited – of races and creeds of people.

Who or what is this “white gleam of our bright star?” In biblical imagery, “stars” are symbols of angels. Lucifer is emblematic of an angel gone bad. His name means “bringing light”, derived from Latin lux “light” and ferre “to bring”. In Latin, this name originally referred to as the morning star. Perhaps this is a mere metaphor, but the parallels are striking.

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.

In these passages, we see the God described here that sounds almost evil. A God of “weary years and silent tears?” Is this what God has brought? And how was this brought? By “might” or, in other words, by force. Some might go as far as the overall message of this anthem is a call to revolution.

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.

It is quite curious that this anthem talks of what seems to be another place – “the places, our God, where we met.” Just where did one meet this God? What is meant by “our native land?” One has to ask whether this native land is America or land where previous ancestors had lived. America was born and created on the idea that people can come from many lands and backgrounds and come together to form a single nation – often called a melting pot. The melting pot is a monocultural metaphor for a heterogeneous society becoming more homogeneous. America is both a land and an idea. This anthem speaks nothing of this viewpoint. 

Now by no means, the Right Wire Report are music critiques, but when we think of anthems, one thinks of a song that is uplifting, extolling the triumphs of a nation – honoring the achievements of the past and encouragement for the future – a melody that stirs us to action and excitement. When listening to the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” one feels sadness and despair (“woe is me”) – something more suitable to play at a funeral.

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There is nothing wrong to have culturally different art, literature, and music from different parts of the American melting pot. For sure, this can be true for African Americans. We can celebrate each other’s cultural differences. But for a national anthem, we should have a uniting message not divisive, that is inclusive of all peoples.

But let’s not forget the author’s roots of this piece – Marxism. In George Orwell’s “1984,” he wrote: “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. History has stopped.” To entertain the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as a national anthem is just part of this attempt to “cancel” America.

image RWR original article syndication source.