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President Collins Shares a Song in Honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

A Message from President Elaine C. Collins:

NVU Students, Faculty, and Staff,

As we recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. on this historic day and reflect on his life and work, I would like to share a song that has come to be known as the Black National Anthem — “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” written in 1899 as a poem and then set to music.

There are many moving and beautiful recordings of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” and I encourage you to seek them out. I would like to share this performance by Stanford Talisman, a group of singers at Stanford University who sing music stemming from Black liberation struggles across the world. It premiered on June 25, 2020, a time of immense struggle in our country.

As Talisman Director John Okhiulu says, “’Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing’ is a protest. A hymn. A prayer of profound significance for our people.”

I share this song today to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. and the many gains that have been made since this song was written, recognizing much work remains to be done.

Please see historical information about this song and the lyrics below my signature.

In unity,

About “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”

“Lift Every Voice and Sing – often called “The Black National Anthem” – was written as a poem by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) and then set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954) in 1899. It was first performed in public in the Johnsons’ hometown of Jacksonville, Florida as part of a celebration of Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12, 1900 by a choir of 500 schoolchildren at the segregated Stanton School, where James Weldon Johnson was principal.” Quoted from

“Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”

Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
‘Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning 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 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?
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.