Black History Month Spotlight: Lift Every Voice and Sing at Super Bowl LVIII

Black History Month Spotlight: Lift Every Voice and Sing at Super Bowl LVIII

Black History Month and the Super Bowl often go hand in hand, but this year's event has stirred significant controversy with the announcement that the Black National Anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," will be featured, sung by Andra Day. While this isn't the first time the anthem will be sung at the Super Bowl – Sheryl Lee Ralph performed it at Super Bowl 57—the decision has reignited debates about patriotism, inclusivity, and the role of symbols in national events. Join us at HBCU Leggings while we explore the history, significance, and impact of Lift Every Voice and Sing.

The Origins of "Lift Every Voice and Sing"

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" is not just a song; it is a powerful hymn with deep roots in the African American experience. Written in 1900 by James Weldon Johnson and set to music by his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, the song emerged from a time of racial strife and inequality. It was a response to the social and political climate of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, characterized by segregation, discrimination, and violence against African Americans. Its lyrics resonate with themes of resilience, faith, and hope, reflecting the struggles and triumphs of the Black community throughout history. The hymn became a rallying cry for African Americans seeking liberation and justice.

“ 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. “
 - Lift Every Voice and Sing

As the civil rights movement gained momentum in the early 20th century, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" took on added significance as a symbol of Black pride and resilience. In 1919, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) dubbed the song the "Negro national anthem," recognizing its power in voicing a cry for liberation and affirmation for African American people. The term "Black national anthem" has also been used to describe the song, highlighting its importance as a cultural touchstone for the Black community.

Over the years, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" has been sung at countless events and gatherings, from church services to civil rights marches, serving as a reminder of the struggles and triumphs of the Black experience. It has the distinguished honor of being featured in 42 Christian hymnals. Its enduring legacy continues to inspire and uplift people of all backgrounds, embodying the spirit of resilience, hope, and unity that defines the African American journey.

The Controversy

The decision to include the Black National Anthem in the Super Bowl yet again has sparked heated discussions across the country. Critics argue that the move politicizes what should be a unifying event, injecting divisive rhetoric into a traditionally apolitical space. Some view the anthem as exclusive, questioning its place alongside the traditional national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Others, however, see the inclusion of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" as a long-overdue recognition of the contributions and experiences of African Americans. They argue that the Super Bowl, as one of the most-watched events in the country, presents an opportunity to celebrate diversity and promote unity. For many in the Black community, the performance of the anthem is a moment of pride and affirmation, highlighting the rich cultural heritage of Black Americans.

Navigating Symbolism, Patriotism, and National Identity

The controversy surrounding the inclusion of the Black National Anthem at the Super Bowl illuminates some deeply ingrained notions of symbolism, patriotism, and the definition of national identity. For some, the anthem represents a potent symbol of division, suggesting that its inclusion may fragment rather than unify the nation. They argue that the Super Bowl, as a quintessentially American event, should focus on celebrating the nation as a whole rather than highlighting specific cultural or racial identities.

However, for others, the anthem serves as a poignant expression of inclusion and unity. In a country where systemic racism and inequality persist, the performance of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" represents a recognition of the struggles and contributions of Black Americans to the fabric of American society. It acknowledges the diverse tapestry of experiences that shape the nation and serves as a reminder of the ongoing fight for justice and equality.

The Bigger Picture

The upcoming performance of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" is not just about representation; but provides an opportunity for national dialogue and reflection. By acknowledging the anthem's historical context and the experiences it embodies, we get to take a look at the bigger picture. We confront uncomfortable truths about our shared history and confront the reality of systemic injustice. In doing so, we are challenged to evolve as a society, moving toward a more inclusive and equitable future, one that embraces diversity and celebrates the richness of all its members.

As the nation grapples with complex issues of race, identity, and belonging, the inclusion of the Black National Anthem at the Super Bowl prompts us to question our understanding of patriotism and national unity. Rather than viewing symbols like "Lift Every Voice and Sing" as sources of division, we are called upon to recognize their power to foster empathy, understanding, and ultimately positive social change. In confronting the complexities of our shared history, we move closer toward a more just and inclusive society, one that honors the dignity and worth of all its citizens.

What are your thoughts, HBCU Leggings community? As we gear up for Super Bowl LVIII, let's pause to reflect on the importance of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and the discussions it sparks. How do you feel about its presence at the event? What significance does it hold for you individually, and what impact might it carry for our society as a whole? As we consider these challenging questions, let's maintain open and respectful discourse, staying focused on our shared perceptions and aspirations for a more inclusive future. And while you’re thinking, don't forget to take advantage of our special offer at HBCU Leggings! Shop now and use the code BETONBLACK24 to enjoy an amazing 10% discount on our entire store from February 1st to February 29th. Let's celebrate Black History Month together in style and song.

Love and Leggings,


Bibi Mama is a first generation Beninese-American actress born and raised in Mansfield, CT. Growing up she watched her father, an English professor and author, continue the Yoruba oral tradition through storytelling, which inspired her. She earned her B.F.A. from Howard University and recently finished her MFA at the Old Globe/University of San Diego MFA Graduate Acting Program.
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