John Rosamond Johnson (August 11, 1873 – November 11,
1954), most often referred to as J. Rosamond
Johnson, was an Bahamian-American composer and singer
during the Harlem Renaissance. Johnson is most notable
as the composer of the hymn "Lift Every Voice and Sing"
which has come to be known in the United States as the
"Black National Anthem". His brother, the poet James
Weldon Johnson, wrote the lyrics of the famous piece.
It was first performed live by 500 Black American
students from the segregated Stanton School
(elementary/middle/junior high-level), Jacksonville,
FL, in 1900. The song was published by the Edward B.
Marks Music Company, formerly the Joseph W. Stern &
Co., Manhattan, NY.
"Lift Every Voice and Sing" — often referred to as "The
African American National Anthem"— is a song written as
a poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871--1938) in 1899 and
set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson
(1873--1954) in 1900.
"Lift Every Voice and Sing" was publicly performed
first as a poem as part of a celebration of Lincoln's
Birthday on February 12, 1900, by 500 school children
at the segregated Stanton School. Its principal, James
Weldon Johnson, wrote the words to introduce its
honored guest Booker T. Washington. The poem was later
set to music by Johnson's brother John in 1905.
In 1939, Augusta Savage received a commission from the
World's Fair and created a 16-foot plaster sculpture
called Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing which was destroyed by
bulldozers at the close of the fair.
In Maya Angelou's 1969 autobiography, I Know Why the
Caged Bird Sings, the song is sung by the audience and
students at Maya's eighth grade graduation, after a
white school official dashes the educational
aspirations of her class.
In 1990, singer Melba Moore released a modern rendition
of the song, which she recorded along with others
including R&B artists Stephanie Mills, Anita Baker,
Dionne Warwick, Bobby Brown, Stevie Wonder, Jeffrey
Osborne, and Howard Hewett; and gospel artists BeBe &
CeCe Winans, Take 6, and The Clark Sisters, after
which, "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" was entered into the
Congressional Record by Del. Walter Fauntroy
In 2008, jazz singer Rene Marie was asked to perform
the national anthem at a civic event in Denver,
Colorado, where she caused a controversy by
substituting the words of "Lift Every Voice and Sing"
into the song. This arrangement of the words of "Lift
Every Voice and Sing" with the melody of "The Star
Spangled Banner" became part of the titular suite on
her 2011 CD release, "The Voice of My Beautiful
On January 20, 2009, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, who was
formerly president of the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference, used a near-verbatim recitation of the
song's third stanza to begin his benediction at the
inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama.
Although originally written for accompanied voice, I
created this arrangement for my friend and Pastor
Julian J. Champion of the West Point School of Music
located in Chicago IL. It has a single purpose for
making music accessible to inner-city and disadvantaged
youth. They are a struggling organization with a
wonderful purpose. This arrangement is created for
Steel Orchestra (Lead Pan, Double Lead (2), Alto Pan,
Cello Pan & Bass Pan) Steel Drums.