"Lift Every Voice" First Performed at Stanton School for Booker T. Washington
Date: February 12, 1900
Walk through the halls of any predominantly African-American grade school in the country and, before long, you'll hear a swell of school children singing a song frequently referred to as the Black National Anthem. "Lift Every Voice" started as a poem written in 1900. According to legend, the song was first performed by schoolchildren in Jacksonville, Florida, to welcome guest-speaker Booker T. Washington. James Weldon Johnson and his brother Rosamond wrote and arranged the song before leading their students at the then-segregated Stanton School through its first performance. The song went on to become an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement throughout its history, and would be butchered in public school auditoriums for years to come.