Marva Fisher Baldwin
Celebrating Black History...Week 3
An Enduring Legacy
Sometimes the most enduring legacies come through a desire to celebrate the legacy of others. This can be said of a man who, while searching for a special way to honor the legacy of someone special unintentionally secured an enduring legacy for himself.
His parents had been freed from slavery prior to the Civil War. His father had become a minister and his mother a teacher. In fact, his mother was the first Black female teacher in Florida. He was the older of their two sons, James and John.
Both sons were talented in their own way. James became a school administrator in addition to a self-taught attorney, founder of the nation's first Black-owned daily news-newspaper, a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, and Executive-Director of the NAACP for ten years. His brother John, a talented musician, chose a career in music and was an accomplished composer-musician.
In early 1900, while looking at ideas for a school assembly program to coincide with celebrating Abraham Lincoln's birthday, James chose to write a poem to highlight the significance of the occasion and the resiliency of his people. As he put words to paper, his brother John put staffs and notes to James' words, producing an unexpected but enduring legacy that lives today. Each year, James Weldon Johnson's words with John Rosamond Johnson's music are sung by millions.
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 has brought us thus far on the way
Thou who has 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
Our native land
When we sing Lift Every Voice and Sing, we celebrate their legacy as a part of our own. Whether in fame or in the goodness of heart, while unselfishly celebrating and honoring the contribution of others, we create our own enduring legacy...so let us lift every voice and sing in honor and in celebration.
Affirmation: As we do unto others, so do we unto ourselves..