“Lift Every Voice and Sing” is often referred to as the Black National Anthem. The song is appropriate for today- Juneteenth.
In a time when many people are finally lifting their voices in anger and sorrow, it sounds a lot like singing to me. In a time when eyes are opening that were not intentionally shut- but were influenced by the way history was presented and left half-blind- we should join in this chorus of hope together, as one people. I grew up as did many of my friends and neighbors thinking that the Emancipation Proclamation meant the slaves were freed. End of discussion. The people were set free, the choices became their own.
We were misled and terribly wrong.
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ACTUAL ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863.
The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. With the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
There was a messenger sent to Texas with the news of FREEDOM 2 1/2 years earlier who was murdered on his way. Also the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. The slave owners wanted the benefits of one last cotton harvest before Emancipation .
Ironically and wonderfully, Texas has led the way to making Juneteenth a national holiday.
On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. The successful passage of this bill marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition. Edwards has since actively sought to spread the observance of Juneteenth all across America.
The liberation of all people from racial profiling and discrimination is as urgent today as it ever was before. We must stand together. We are ONE NATION. So sing out.
Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
‘Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning 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 ’til 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,
‘Til 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