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  • Writer's pictureMarva 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 let us lift every voice and sing in honor and in celebration.

Affirmation: As we do unto others, so do we unto ourselves..

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