IUP Chorale and the IUP Chorus students singing in unison at an IUP basketball game.Wednesday evening, under the direction of Moses Phillips, the IUP Chorale and the IUP Chorus had the opportunity to perform “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” with words by James Weldon Johnson and music by John Rosamond Johnson, at the IUP basketball game. As a prelude to the “Star-Spangled Banner,” the performance of “Lift Every Voice” was intended to recognize and celebrate the contributions of African Americans during Black History Month. Known as the “Black National Anthem,” this hymn has served as an expression of pride and patriotism for African Americans, and increasingly for all Americans, since its composition in segregated Jacksonville, FL in 1900.

As such, the piece has attracted criticism at times, including Wednesday evening via a racist social media post. We would respond that the beauty of this work, which powerfully summarizes the past, present, and hopeful future of our nation, speaks for itself. We wish to thank IUP Athletics for the opportunity to perform this for the IUP community, as well as Moses Phillips for sharing his musicianship and knowledge of this important American song.