Beyoncé’s 2018 Coachella performance was historic for the unapologetic Blackness she displayed. Her rendition of “Lift Every Voice And Sing” at the festival was broadcast to tens of millions of viewers across the world, bringing the classic to a new audience.
Why is the song so significant that she’d open the biggest festival concert EVER with it?
“Lift Every Voice And Sing” was originally written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson, and his brother John wrote the music. The very first performance of the poem was by Florida schoolchildren in 1900.
By 1919, it had become so popular that the NAACP chose it as their official song. Thus, the “Negro National Anthem” was born.
Its designation as an unofficial “national anthem” has been controversial - many civil rights leaders felt it was divisive to have two anthems.
But not many know that there’s a third verse of the “Star-Spangled Banner” - written by the VERY pro-slavery Francis Scott Key - that references hunting down and killing slaves!
It makes sense to have our own anthem - one that does justice to our history. The Negro National Anthem has somber reflection on our people’s trials and toils, as well as hope for a brighter future, when “Earth and heaven ring with the harmonies of liberty!”
This hope - and the song’s relevance - have stayed with us to this day!