Rep. Clyburn Bill Would Make ‘Black National Anthem’ Nation’s Hymn

Rep. Clyburn Bill Would Make 'Black National Anthem' Nation's Hymn clyburn in a dark gray suit and yellow patterned tie Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

By Solange Reyner | Thursday, 14 January 2021 02:02 PM

Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., plans to introduce a bill to make "Lift Every Voice and Sing" a national hymn alongside "The Star-Spangled Banner," USA Today reports.

The hymn, originally a poem written by James Weldon Johnson in 1899, was sung for the first time in 1900 at the height of segregation and lynching. It has come to be known as the “Black national anthem.”

“To make it a national hymn, I think, would be an act of bringing the country together. It would say to people, ‘You aren’t singing a separate national anthem, you are singing the country’s national hymn,’” Clyburn, the House majority whip and highest-ranking Black American in Congress, told the news outlet. “The gesture itself would be an act of healing. Everybody can identify with that song.”

Beyoncé performed the hymn at Coachella in 2018 and the late Rev. Joseph Lowery started his benediction reciting the song’s third verse at the inauguration for President Barack Obama.

The NFL also played it before each game during Week 1 of 2020.

Reiland Rabaka, the author of "Civil Rights Music: The Soundtracks of the Civil Rights Movement," told ABC News that "Lift Every Voice and Sing" reflects the "tragedies of the African American experience, but also the triumphs," and this juxtaposition gives it the "staying power that it has to this day."