The House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties met Friday to discuss a bill that would make “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” the anthem national of the United States.
The famous song written by James Weldon Johnson of Jacksonville is often referred to as the “Black National Anthem”. The anthem was written in poem form by the NAACP leader, lawyer and educator in 1900, and his brother, John Rosamond Johnson, wrote the music.
AT Friday’s hearingLeon Russell, President of the NAACP National Board of Directors, and Melanie Edwards, Johnson’s great-niece, spoke.
They described the song as a theme for the modern civil rights movement played in church stadiums across the country for decades.
“Like the black men who created it, ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing’ speaks eloquently and accurately about history, hope, vision and perseverance,” Edwards said.
No major decision was made Friday on the bill (HR301), which was introduced by U.S. Representative James Clyburn, D-South Carolina and was supported by more than 40 Democrats, including U.S. Representative Al Lawson, D-Florida.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry also lent his support to the bill. NAACP Jacksonville Chapter President Isaiah Rumlin praised Curry for writing a letter to Congress this week expressing support for the bill and the Jacksonville icon at the start of Black History Month.
“Most of us like to call it ‘the Negro national anthem’, but it’s not an anthem, it’s an anthem that James Weldon Johnson wrote. And that’s what Rep. [James] Clyburn put in his bill, let this be our anthem, not an anthem for this country,” Rumlin told News4JAX on Thursday.
In the letter Curry sent to Clyburn expressing his support, he wrote: ‘For too long the legacy of the Johnson brothers has been overlooked and ignored by city leaders. We renewed our commitment to honor Jacksonville’s history and significance before and after the Civil Rights Movement.
As mayor of @VilledeJax & on this 1st day of Black History Month, I am pleased to support House Bill 301 to ratify James Weldon Johnson & J. Rosamond Johnson’s song, Lift Ev-‘ ry Voice and Sing as the United States of America National Hymn #Black History Month pic.twitter.com/fmva3reu6Q
— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) February 1, 2022
Curry noted that under his administration Hemming Park was renamed James Weldon Johnson Park and Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park now comes to life at LaVilla.
RELATED: Jacksonville Celebrates ‘Black National Anthem’ Writer James Weldon Johnson’s Birthday
Rumlin hopes Johnson’s legacy will live on forever in Jacksonville.
“He was born here in the city of Jacksonville. And because of his intellect, he was able to do a lot for this city, for this state and for this country,” Rumlin said.
According to the Senate Historical Office, six songs were proposed to Congress to become official national anthems, including “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America,” but none of them were adopted.
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