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Singer Andra Day performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is widely known as the Black national anthem, at the start of the 2024 Super Bowl

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” has a short Super Bowl history, but the song itself has been around since 1900, when it was first performed by a choir of 500 schoolchildren in Jacksonville, Florida. It was written by James Weldon Johnson, who considered the piece a hymn.

Super Bowl LVIII - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs
Singer Andra Day performs before Super Bowl LVIII between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs at Allegiant Stadium on February 11, 2024, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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What is the Black national anthem?

James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” colloquially known as the Black national anthem, was originally written late in 1899, James Weldon Johnson Foundation president Rufus Jones said. 

Johnson, a renowned author, educator, lawyer and civil rights activist, set out to write a poem to to commemorate President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and the piece became a song. His brother, John Rosamond Johnson, composed the music.

American writer and educator James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938), circa 1925.

Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

James Weldon Johnson referred to the work as a “National Hymn,” but his work spread and was later popularized as the Black national anthem. 

“At the turn of the 20th century, Johnson’s lyrics eloquently captured the solemn yet hopeful appeal for the liberty of Black Americans,” according to the NAACP, where Johnson was a leader. “Set against the religious invocation of God and the promise of freedom, the song was later adopted by NAACP and prominently used as a rallying cry during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.”

Calling the song the Black national anthem has led to some controversy. “America only has ONE NATIONAL ANTHEM. Why is the NFL trying to divide us by playing multiple!? Do football, not wokeness,” Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Republican from Colorado, tweeted before it was performed at the 2023 Super Bowl.

Jones, however, emphasized that “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was written and popularized decades before “The Star-Spangled Banner” became America’s national anthem in 1931.

“In Jim Crow America, when everything was ‘separate and equal,’ so to speak, Black folk found their own sources of inspiration,” Jones said. 

In early 2021, Rep. James Clyburn filed a bill seeking to have “Lift Every Voice and Sing” honored as the national hymn.

Who is singing the Black national anthem at the 2024 Super Bowl?

Andra Day was selected to perform “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at the 2024 Super Bowl. Pregame performances will also include Reba McEntire singing the national anthem and rapper Post Malone with “America the Beautiful.”

“Peace & Blessings!!! Performing the Anthem at the SuperBowl yall! Grateful! Thank You God,” Day wrote on social media about the news.

Andra Day
Andra Day 

Getty Images

There will also be an American Sign Language performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by actor and choreographer Shaheem Sanchez.

The song has been featured ahead of three previous Super Bowls. 

Alicia Keys performed the song in a pre-recorded video before the 2021 Super Bowl. The following year, Mary Mary performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing” from outside SoFi stadium at Super Bowl LVI. 

And in 2023, Sheryl Lee Ralph did the honors, performing it on the field for the first time before the Kansas City Chiefs faced the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII.

“It is no coincidence that I will be singing the Black National Anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing at the Super Bowl on the same date it was first publicly performed 123 years ago (February 12, 1900). Happy Black History Month,” she shared on social media at the time. 

Super Bowl LVII - Kansas City Chiefs v Philadelphia Eagles
Sheryl Lee Ralph performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing” before Super Bowl LVII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Rob Carr / Getty Images

In 2020, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was played before all 16 of the Week 1 games, according to the NFL. At the time, the league said it was working to “amplify work done by its players and the families who are trying to address social justice issues.”

“[The song] has encouraged generations of Black people that God will lead us to the promises of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,” the NFL’s Troy Vincent said at the time. “It’s as pertinent in today’s environment as it was when it was written.”

Full lyrics of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”

Lift every 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,

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.

Super Bowl LVIII will air on CBS and Nickelodeon and stream on Paramount+ on Sunday, Feb. 11, from Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET.


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