Lift Every Voice and Sing

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"Lift Every Voice and Sing" — often referred to as "The African American National Anthem"— is a song written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) in 1899 and set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson (1873–1954) in 1900. (From Wikipedia)
Curriculet Details
5 Questions
4 Annotations
0 Quizzes

This free digital curriculum contains interactive content that supports reading comprehension. Over the course of the poem, students will answer Common Core aligned questions addressing grade-level appropriate literary terms and concepts. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension.

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Lift Every Voice and Sing, James Weldon Johnson

If you are not familiar with James Weldon Johnson, go to the link below and read a little of this poet's biography. (This annotation contains a link)
The second annotation of this assignment contains a quote by the author that provides context for this poem. In it, Johnson says, The lines of this song repay me in an elation, almost of exquisite anguish, whenever I hear them sung by Negro children. Please explain what he means by this. 
This poem was written in 1899. Given what you know about history, about James Weldon Johnson, and about the context of the poem, what can you infer the phrase dark past refers to? Please explain. 
Please describe the tone of the first stanza. 
Please complete the following sentence."The white gleam of our bright star" is a metaphor referring to... 
Please write a paragraph comparing and contrasting the two performances of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" presented in the previous video annotations. Consider the mood, the performers, and the tone of the song itself. 
A note from James Weldon Johnson: "A group of young men in Jacksonville, Florida, arranged to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday in 1900. My brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, and I decided to write a song to be sung at the exercises. I wrote the words and he wrote the music. Our New York publisher, Edward B. Marks, made mimeographed copies for us, and the song was taught to and sung by a chorus of five hundred colored school children. Shortly afterwards my brother and I moved away from Jacksonville to New York, and the song passed out of our minds. But the school children of Jacksonville kept singing it; they went off to other schools and sang it; they became teachers and taught it to other children. Within twenty years it was being sung over the South and in some other parts of the country. Today the song, popularly known as the Negro National Hymn, is quite generally used. The lines of this song repay me in an elation, almost of exquisite anguish, whenever I hear them sung by Negro children." 
Now watch this video of Gladys Knight and BeBe Winans performing the song...  (This annotation contains a video)
This song has been sung many, many times over the years by the likes of Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Gladys Knight, and more. In the video below, Ray Charles performs "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Pay attention to the mood of the song as it's presented here. You will be asked to compare this to another performance in a subsequent question. (This annotation contains a video)