Online Exhibits@Yale

Origin of the Song

James Weldon Johnson, photograph by C.M. Battey, 1904

James Weldon Johnson

James Weldon Johnson wrote the lyrics to the song "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" to commemorate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln as part of a community celebration in Jacksonville, Florida in 1900. 

John Rosamond Johnson, portrait, 1906

John Rosamond Johnson

John Rosamond Johnson set the words to music. He was the younger brother of James Weldon Johnson. The brothers often worked together to compose songs.

James Weldon Johnson as Principal of Stanton Institute

James Weldon Johnson as Principal of Stanton Institute

Students at Stanton Institute in Jacksonville, Florida were among the first to sing the song.

Stanton Institute

Stanton Institute

Stanton Institute in Jacksonville, Florida was founded in 1868 for the education of black children. James Weldon Johnson was principal of Stanton Institute from 1894 to 1902.

Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing for Three Part Choral

Sheet Music for "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" for Three Part Choral

"Lift Every Voice and Sing"

Sheet music for "Lift Every Voice and Sing" for mixed quartette.

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" became popular throughout the United States and the sheet music was readily available for purchase in different arrangements.

Origin of the Song