“Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing”


The song “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” written by James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson at the turn of the twentieth century, is often known today as the Black National Anthem and is sung in schools, churches, and civic settings throughout the United States.

This exhibit offers a look at the creation of the song, and at the lives and careers of the brothers who created it, through primary sources held in the Yale University Library. It is intended to provide teachers and students at the K-8 level with information about the history of the song, but also to serve as a primary-source teaching tool that can be tied into various aspects of the curriculum at the teacher’s discretion. Captions are often minimal so that the material may speak for itself.


Click on any image to see a larger version. Some thumbnail images show only the first of several pages, but if you click on the thumbnail image, you will see all the pages.


James Weldon Johnson was an American songwriter, civil rights activist, writer, diplomat, educator, and attorney. John Rosamond Johnson was an American composer, songwriter, performer, and educator. Their papers are held, respectively, by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Yale University.



This exhibit was co-curated in 2018 by Melissa Barton, Ellen Doon, Afua Ferdnance, Suzanne Lovejoy and Edgewood Magnet School staff.