Mormon Tabernacle Choir Blog

The Choir Performs “Lift Every Voice and Sing” for the NAACP

On May 20, 2018, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) attended the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s weekly Music and the Spoken Word broadcast. Members of the National Board of Directors of the NAACP and the NAACP Foundation were in Salt Lake City for their board meetings, which were held in Salt Lake City for the first time. They also met with the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and made a joint statement to the media calling for “greater civility and racial harmony.”

Following the Sunday broadcast, the Choir performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” arranged by Roland Carter. The Salt Lake Tribune reported, “As the first strains of the anthem filled the historic Mormon Tabernacle, the NAACP leadership and their new Utah friends rose to their feet in a gesture of respect. Soon, every person was standing and remained that way until the number ended before breaking into an enthusiastic applause.”

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” was written in 1900, when a school principal and poet, James Weldon Johnson, was invited to speak to a crowd in Jacksonville, Florida, for the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. To introduce the honored guest, Booker T. Washington, Johnson decided to write a poem. On February 12, 1900, 500 schoolchildren at the segregated Stanton School in Jacksonville, where Johnson was principal, recited “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Stanton's brother John wrote the music to accompany the poem in 1905.

In 1919, the NAACP praised the song for “its power in voicing the cry for liberation and affirmation for African-American people,” and it is often referred to as the “Black American National Anthem.”

Watch the new performance (above) of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, which was performed at the request of and in honor of the NAACP.