Last fall, before the opening kickoff at professional football games played on week one of the season, millions of Americans were introduced to a hymn that has been an inspiration to this country’s African-American population since the early years of the twentieth century.
In support of the Black Lives Matter movement, a decision was made to perform “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during pre-game activities at every home football stadium during the first weekend of the 2020 NFL season.
The song, which came to be know as the Negro National Anthem and was officially recognized as such by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1919, was penned by James Weldon Johnson and his brother Rosamond.
In the world of Historically Black College and University (HBCU) baseball, James Weldon Johnson is remembered as a talented pitcher on the baseball team of Atlanta University (now known at Clark Atlanta University) in1892. To the rest of the world, Johnson was known for far more. He was an author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, songwriter, and civil rights activist. He is best remembered for his leadership within the NAACP heading the organization as its first executive secretary.
Early in 2021, James Clyburn, the Majority Whip and third-ranking Democrat in the United States House of Representatives filed a bill to make “Lift Every Voice and Sing” America’s national hymn.
Editors Note… this mockup of a baseball card was based on a snippet from a manuscript by Mr. Sokol which will eventually become a book on the history of HBCU baseball. Stay tuned.