James Clyburn suggests making “Carry Each Voice and Sing” the nationwide anthem

(RNS) – House Majority Whip James Clyburn plans to enact legislation to make “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” long a staple of the black community, the nation’s national anthem.

“Making ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ a national anthem would be an act to bring the country together,” read a tweet from @WhipClyburn on Tuesday (Jan. 12).

“The gesture itself would be an act of healing. Everyone can identify with this song. “

The South Carolina Democratic Congressman could propose the anthem – often referred to as the unofficial “black national anthem” – as early as this week, USA Today reported.

RELATED: Anthem Persists as an Unofficial Black National Anthem

The hymn, with lyrics on freedom and belief, is often sung on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month and performed in hymn books of various faiths. But Clyburn thinks there should be more singing beyond predominantly black communities.

The newspaper cited Clyburn as a distinguishing feature of the anthem from the national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

“You don’t sing your own national anthem,” he said, “you sing the country’s national anthem.”

USA Today reported that Clyburn asked its staff last month to draft law before the insurgents stormed the U.S. Capitol and racial tensions mounted over police brutality and racial injustice.

The song harks back to a celebration of Lincoln’s birthday in Jacksonville, Florida in 1900, as recorded in 2000: “Raise Every Voice and Sing: A Celebration of the Negro National Anthem.” James Weldon Johnson wrote the words for the occasion ; his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, set it to music.

The texts are not expressly tied to a specific religious tradition, but mention “God” several times in the third verse of the hymn.

The song was played at the start of recent Beyonce Masses, was used to awaken astronauts aboard Space Shuttle Discovery, and was included in the closing prayer of President Barack Obama’s 2009 swearing-in ceremony. This fall, the decision to show it at NFL games met with praise and criticism.

“It had historicity; it had the religious context, ”Rev. Joseph Lowery said when asked by the Religion News Service in 2009 why he borrowed the third verse of“ Lift Every Voice and Sing ”in the opening section.

Lowery, who died in 2020, said he often used his third verse as a hymn of praise in his church services. “The black experience is somehow wrapped up in this hymn.”

In USA Today, Clyburn Lowery reiterated that his plan was not just a symbolic one.

“It’s a very popular song that is rooted in the history of the country,” he said.

He added, “I was always upset” when it was once called the “Negro national anthem”.

Rather, he believes that it is a song for everyone and not just some in the nation.

“We should have a national anthem whether you are black or white,” he said. “To give the song the honor and respect it deserves, we should call it the national anthem.”

The first verse of the hymn reads as follows:

Raise every voice and sing

Until earth and sky ring

Ring with the harmonies of freedom;

Let our joy rise

High as the sky of the list

Make it sound like the rolling sea

Sing a song full of faith that the dark past taught us.

Sing a song full of hope that the present has brought us;

With the rising sun our new day started

Let us keep marching until victory is achieved.

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