"Lift Every Voice and Sing" — sometimes referred to as "The Negro National Hymn" or "The African-American National Anthem"— is a song with lyrics by James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) and set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson (1873–1954) in 1900.
"Lift Every Voice and Sing" was publicly performed as part of a celebration of Lincoln's Birthday on February 12, 1900, by 500 school children at the segregated Stanton School.
As the story goes, the brothers moved to New York City soon after and eventually forgot about the song. But, not the school children who continued to sing it and when they grew up, taught it to other school children. By the 1920s children and adults were singing the song all over the South as well as in other parts of the country.
More about the background of the song here:
And the lyrics are explained here:
Here are 2 early printed versions of the song:
New York: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, [ca. 1920].
New York: Edward B. Marks Music Company, [ca. 1928].
(o) Manhattan Harmony Four 1923
"Lift Every Voice And Sing" was first recorded by the Manhattan Harmony Four.
Recorded April 1923 in New York and released on the Black Swan label: BS 2120
In 1924 it was re-released on the Paramount-label: Paramount 12106
(c) Nazarene Congregational Church Choir 1926
Recorded November 26, 1926 in New York City
Released on Gennet 6003
(c) Southern Sons 1942
Recorded October 22, 1942 in New York
Released on Bluebird 30-0806-B
(c) Harmonizing Four 1952
Released on Gotham label # G757
(c) Kim Weston (1968)
Released in April 1968 on the MGM-label (#K13927)
Re-released in 1970 on the Pride-label (Hit R&B).
Kim Weston also performed the song in the 1972 movie "Wattstax".
(c) Merry Clayton 1970 (on the soundtrack of "Brewster McCloud")
(c) Ray Charles 1972
Here Ray is singing it in the Dick Cavett Show in 1972
(c) Al Green & Deniece Williams 1985 (as a project for Black History Month)
The actual song begins at 6 min and 11 sec in the next YT
(c) Melba Moore (1990) (Top 10 R&B)
In 1990, singer Melba Moore released a modern rendition of the song,
which she recorded along with others including R&B artists Anita
Baker, Stephanie Mills, Dionne Warwick, Bobby Brown, Stevie Wonder,
Jeffrey Osborne, and Howard Hewett; and gospel artists BeBe and CeCe
Winans, Take 6 and The Clark Sisters. Partly because of the success of
this recording, Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing was entered into the
Congressional Record as the official African American National Hymn.
President Obama Singing "Lift Every Voice And Sing" with a few celebs at the White House aired on local PBS station WNIN at 7:00 PM Central, on Tuesday, August 27, 2013.
René Marie attracted controversy in 2008, when she was invited to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at a civic event in Denver, and substituted the song's lyrics with those from "Lift Every Voice and Sing".
This arrangement of the national anthem forms part of the titular suite of Marie's 2011 CD, The Voice of My Beautiful Country.