James Weldon Johnson: “Lift Every Voice and Sing”

James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) was a leading figure in the development of the Harlem Renaissance. He was a civil rights activist, attorney, U.S. Diplomat, anthropologist, and accomplished writer. After retiring from the NAACP in 1930, Johnson devoted the rest of his life to writing and became the first African American professor at New York University.

In 1900 James wrote the poem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” In 1905 his brother John arranged it to music, resulting in what is commonly referred to as “The Black National Anthem.” You can hear the strength and resilient faith of generations of African American women and men singing this song as they labor for equity and freedom:

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.

Included in the anthem is a beautiful prayer. I share it with you today.

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!

About Fred

Fred came to serve greater Williamsburg and WCC as lead pastor in October of 2010 and is grateful to be a part of the family. He is a husband, father, certified trauma professional, S.T.A.R. (strategies for trauma awareness & resilience) practitioner, community organizer, TEDx alum, founder of 3e Restoration, Inc. and co-owner of Philoxenia Culture LLC. He received his B.S. in Ministry/Bible at Amridge University and his Master’s of Religious Education in Missional Leadership from Rochester University. Currently he is a candidate for a Doctorate of Ministry in Contextual Theology in at Northern Seminary in Chicago. Fred has also served as an adjunct professor for Rochester University and Regent University where taught courses in philosophy, ethics, leadership, pastoral care, intro to Christianity, and ethnography. He has also served as a guest lecturer on the subjects of racialized cultural systems, poverty, and missiology at various universities, such as William & Mary and Oklahoma Christian University. Fred has authored on book (Racialized Cultural Systems, Social Displacement and Christian Hospitality) and several curriculum offerings, including The FloorPlan: Living Toward Restoration & Resilience. Fred enjoys hanging out with his family anytime, anywhere. He is deeply grateful for how God graciously works through the Church in all her various forms, despite our brokenness. He is passionate about seeing the last, least, and lonely of every neighborhood, city and nation experience God’s in-breaking kingdom, and come to know Jesus as King. Oh, and his favorite season is Advent and Christmas. Fred is a founding member of the board of directors for Virginia Racial Healing Institute, a member of the leadership team for Williamsburg's local chapter of Coming to the Table, and a member of Greater Williamsburg Trauma-Informed Community Network's Racial Trauma Committee and Training Committee.
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