Momentum grows for ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ as national hymn
James Weldon Johnson.

James Weldon Johnson
Jacksonville's greatest song is up for national canonization.

A timeless song written by a Jacksonville legend may become canonized as the “national hymn” soon, as momentum builds in the U.S. House of Representatives for a bill to that effect.

South Carolina Democratic Rep. James Clyburn is sponsoring HR 301, which would make “Lift Every Voice and Sing” the official national hymn. The song was written by James Weldon Johnson, with music by his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson.

The bill has 44 Democratic co-sponsors, including Rep. Al Lawson, who represents much of Jacksonville. Republican Mayor Lenny Curry also supports the bill.

The song is known already as the Black national anthem, but this designation would represent official canonization for the song.

On Friday, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties discussed the song and the Clyburn legislation, with legislators and experts attesting to the timeless nature of the song.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York hailed the song as a “beacon of hope for African Americans” historically, written at a time where the “promises of racial equality made during Reconstruction were betrayed.”

“To sing the song is not only to acknowledge the suffering of the past, but to look ahead to a brighter future,” Nadler said, arguing the song “speaks to the universal human condition of struggle and triumph.”

Clyburn also offered remarks.

“The threads of our fragile democracy are fraying,” Clyburn asserted, saying that this “iconic hymn” would help to unify people.

Clyburn noted the first performance of the song, which was sung by school children in 1900 at the then-segregated Stanton School in Jacksonville.

“We believe ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ is a hymn that is so cherished … that designating it as our national hymn is proper,” Clyburn said. He argued it has resonance for “every ethnic background in America.”

NAACP Board of Directors Chairman Leon Russell noted, as did previous speakers, that advocates “do not call for this great hymn to supplant or replace the national anthem.”

Russell also spoke to the universality of the song.

“Although the song speaks to the Black experience, any American who has experienced oppression can relate to its words. Although written in the heart of Jim Crow America, it was adopted as the NAACP Hymn at a time when on average three to five Blacks were lynched every day in this country, the song admonishes us not to lose faith. It inspires us to be uplifted,” Russell said.

Dwandalyn R. Reece of the National Museum of African American History and Culture described the groundswell the song created in the Black community in the decades it became central to cultural canon.

“It quickly began to make its way through communities in the North and South. It received a public endorsement by Booker T. Washington, president of Tuskegee University, and by 1919 had been designated as the official song of the NAACP. By the 1920s you could find copies of the song inserted or pasted into the hymnals of black churches across the country,” Reece asserted.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • Kathy

    February 4, 2022 at 10:10 am

    For Christ’s sake. If these “representatives” would take their positions as their constituents voices and take care of business that would be great. Time was taken away from serious issues here in Florida to vote on strawberry shortcake. Then these jackasses have the nerve to expect us to be grateful when they legislate through the night before ending sessions.

  • Old Voter

    February 4, 2022 at 10:19 am

    If it is not intended to replace our current national anthem, then passage of the bill would create two national anthems. How could anything be more divisive? Of course the purpose is to divide, not unify. Recognize it, sing it proudly, but don’t force it on the country as a replacement.

  • Impeach Biden

    February 4, 2022 at 10:23 am

    I see the Democrats are still focused on silly issues.
    Meanwhile along the Southern Border……………..

    • Frederick Lucies

      February 4, 2022 at 4:26 pm

      Is the fact that I accept the First Amendment what made you think I’m a Democrat? I also believe in the Statue of Liberty

  • Lynda

    February 4, 2022 at 10:31 am

    I still think the current National Anthem should be replaced by “America the Beautiful”. The current anthem is too difficult for people with ordinary voices to sing. It is intended to rally residents for battles. America the Beautiful celebrates land all people share.

  • Impeach Biden

    February 4, 2022 at 10:40 am

    Looks like I’ve been canceled yet again. Free speech is dead at Florida Politics.

  • yanex93688

    February 4, 2022 at 10:44 am

    Looks like I’ve been canceled yet again. Free speech is dead at Florida Politics.

  • Frederick Lucies

    February 4, 2022 at 11:54 am

    As much as I love the hymn, this is a direct violation of the First Amendment preventing the establishment of any religion. I love the sentiment, but the law prevails.

  • Ron Ogden

    February 4, 2022 at 11:56 am

    “. . .as the “national hymn” soon”
    You see the little snickering word play here, “Hymn” is the word they use, not “anthem.” They would never stand a chance of changing the National Anthem. What’s the point? Simple: to come up with another black-only-allowed aspect of American life, to go with Juneteenth, Kwanza, Black History Month, Black Lives Matter, Martin Luther King Day, agricultural subsidies for black farmers only, all so as to further divide the nation, all under the rubric of “diversity” and all promoted by the tech industry, the media, FLAPOL and its friends among the Lincoln Project.

  • America

    February 4, 2022 at 9:47 pm

    I like America the Beautiful as the national hymn

  • politics

    February 6, 2022 at 12:09 pm

    I will not idolize

  • politics

    February 6, 2022 at 12:12 pm

    I will support the immature ideas of the flag that will grow into adulthood.

Comments are closed.


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