A Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy

Lift every voice and sing,
‘Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on ’til victory is won.
This poem was written by James Weldon Johnson to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday in February 1900, and performed by 500 students of the Stanton School, a segregated elementary school of which Mr. Johnson was principal.  These were the words heard by the crowd gathered that day to hear Mr. Booker T. Washington.  These were the words later set to music by James Weldon’s brother, John, and sung in African-American churches and events throughout the 1900s.
Though the poem describes the dark history in which these descendants of slaves have lived, it’s aspirational message appeals to all Americans, I believe.  While attending an inaugural celebration for Barack Obama, I had the opportunity to join the assembled crowd in singing this song.  That shared song–of hope that the present had brought us–was a clear legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work.  Black and white, Christian and Jew, gay and straight, we all sang this beautiful anthem together, connected by a hope that the nation could move into a new day, together.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s