Today is the official celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
At the end of Mass yesterday morning, the music director announced that, in honor of the day, after the recessional hymn, he would play the Negro National Anthem.
You could have knocked me over with a feather.
There’s a Negro National Anthem? And here I’ve been under the delusion that blacks had wanted so much to be fully included as Americans that a Civil War was fought to end slavery in all of the United States, followed by the arduous Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s in which Dr. King played such an inspiring pivotal role. The Civil War remains the second most ruinous war in American history with 646,392 casualties — a total war dead that is superceded only by the 1,076,245 U.S. casualties of the Second World War.
After all that, black Americans have their own national anthem?
Here’s what Wikipedia says about the Negro National Anthem:
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” — often called “The Negro National Hymn,” “The Negro National Anthem,” “The Black National Anthem,” or “The African-American National Anthem”— is a song written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) and set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson (1873–1954) in 1900….
In 1919, the NAACP adopted the song as “The Negro National Anthem.” …During and after the American Civil Rights Movement, the song experienced a rebirth, and by the 1970s was often sung immediately after “The Star Spangled Banner” at public events and performances across the United States where the event had a significant African-American population…. In 1990…[the song] was entered into the Congressional Record by Del. Walter Fauntroy (D-DC), as the official African American National Hymn.
Here’s the lyrics of the Negro National Anthem:
Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet,
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered;
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou Who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou Who hast by Thy might, led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee.
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee.
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,
True to our God, true to our native land.
So what is so darn wrong with the American National Anthem of the Star Spangled Banner that black Americans have their own national anthem?