African American
History & Heritage Site

*** Do You Shop at ***
Please support this site by using this link!

It's AMERICAN History & Heritage!

Main Menu

Copyright 2002 Gerri Gribi ||| Email ||| Updated 08/07/15
Please acknowledge

Recommended by NEA Today
School Library Journal's Site of the Week
Kathy Schrock's "SOS Web Site of the Week"
Johnson Subvention Award, Society for American Music

||| Books ||| Educational Video ||| TV on DVD ||| Composers ||| Women ||| Higher Education ||| "Lift Every Voice"||| Travel

Teacher Toolkit Grades K-12
Contents ||| Reference Online ||| Reference Offline ||| FAQ ||| Professional Development ||| Elementary ||| History ||| Language Arts ||| Music ||| Math & Science ||| Visual Arts ||| Museums & Historic Sites ||| Link Policy ||| About the Author

***African American Posters at ***

*** 2016 African American Calendars! ***

Lift Every Voice and Sing: The Negro National Anthem

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" (1900) was written by James Weldon Johnson for a presentation in celebration of the birthday of Abraham Lincoln. The music was composed by his brother and songwriting partner, J. Rosamond Johnson. The song was originally performed in Jacksonville, Florida, by children. The popular title for this work is THE NEGRO NATIONAL ANTHEM.

1/20/09 - The Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery began his benedication at President Barack Obama's inaugeral ceremony by quoting from the third verse.

Download it right now!

You can download MP3s for under a dollar at

Karaoke Version: This R&B setting is in the very singable Key of G.

Sheet Music Online

Select from 17 versions and Download a DIGITAL VERSION instantly at

View the original sheet music online as jpeg images at the University of South Carolina

Found in these Hymnals:

Songs of Zion. Edited by Verolga Nix and Jefferson Cleveland. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1981. Order at

African American Heritage Hymnal. Carpenter, Delores & Nolen E. Williams Jr. Editors. Chicago, IL: GIA Publications, 2001. Read more or order the Assembly Edition at For Accompaniment Edition, Donor book plates, etc contact GIA Publications.

Lift Every Voice and Sing II: An African-American Hymnal. Pew Version and spiral bound Accompaniment Edition available from Church Publishing. You can also find it at

Total Praise. Sunday School Publishing Board of the National Baptist Convention. 2011 GIA Publications Inc.

Lead Me, Guide Me Second Edition. GIA Publications Inc. 2012 GIA Publications Inc. The full breadth of African American church music that is suitable for Catholic worship, along with a broader mix of common Catholic repertoire.


This song has been recorded in every musical genre. You can also listen to samples and download MP3s for under a dollar at and iTunes Music

Here are a few of my favorites:

For a piano instrumental version (in a very sing-able key, and which probably sounds much as the song would have been played back in 1900) try Euphonic Sounds, nineteen rag-time performances by Reginald R. Robinson, Chicago: Delmark, 1998. Available at Congratulations to Reginald R. Robinson, 2004 MacArthur 'Genius' Grant recipient!

For a choral version, I recommend Boys Choir of Harlem, We Shall Overcome New York 2001. Available at

If your tastes are for classical music, I highly recommend William Grant Still's orchestral setting for baritone solo found on Works by William Grant Still, performed by Videmus, New World Records 1990. Available at

Linda Tillery's arrangement on Say Yo' Business (Linda Tillery & the Cultural Heritage Choir) has a driving drum beat, a wonderful blend of traditional and contemporary sounds. You can listen to a sample and order at

If you love traditional quartet gospel singing, you can't beat the version recorded by The Southern Sons as reissued on 1940's Vocal Groups, Document Records 1996. (Plus, you'll get the complete recorded works of The Southern Sons and the first recorded works of Richmond's Harmonizing Four on one CD...such a deal!) The Zion Harmonizers also provide a great version on Best of New Orleans Gospel Vol. 2.

The Boston Pops has has also recorded it on their CD, A Splash of Pops. Available at

For a thrilling a capella version performed by Women of the Calabash with the Free Voices of Praise Choir, try The Kwanzaa Album. Available at


Lift Every Voice and Sing. Johnson, James Weldon, Illustrated by Elizabeth Catlett. New York: Walker, 1993. Available at Amazon.

A picture book with impressionistic interpretations of the lyrics in colored pencil, gouache, and watercolor.

Lift Every Voice and Sing : A Celebration of the Negro National Anthem : 100 Years, 100 Voices, edited by Julian Bond. New York: Random House, 2000.

History of the song, plus 100 commentaries by people of all races. There's even a Kindle edition. Available at Amazon.

Read More at NPR "Present at the Creation"