Jacksonville brothers wrote, composed anthem


Published: Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 3:38 p.m.
On Feb. 12, 1900 "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," also known as the Negro National Anthem and the Negro National Hymn, was sung publicly for the first time.
Written by James Weldon Johnson with music by his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, the occasion was a celebration of the birthday of Abraham Lincoln at the Colored High School in Jacksonville.
In 1926, Johnson acknowledged that the song was not written as an expression of African-American solidarity. He said "the song not only epitomizes the history of the race, and its present condition, but voices their hope for the future."
James Weldon Johnson was born June 17, 1871, in Jacksonville. He died June 26, 1938, in Maine, in a car accident. John Rosamond Johnson was born Aug. 11, 1873, also in Jacksonville. He died Nov. 11, 1954, in New York.
James Johnson studied literature at Atlanta University and went on to become a songwriter, anthropologist, teacher and lawyer; he was the first African American to pass the bar in the state of Florida. In 1920, he was appointed executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. His works include ''The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man,'' 1920; ''The Book of American Negro Poetry,'' 1922; ''God's Trombones,'' 1927 and ''Along This Way,'' 1933. Rosamond Johnson also attended Atlanta University and the New England Conservatory of Music. He and his brother, James, belonged to the songwriting team, Cole and Johnson Brothers, writing more than 200 songs.
Source: the African American Registry

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