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Lifting Every Voice: A Student’s Perspective

By Sean Scott (Reporter '25)

This past February, members of the Upper School Black Student Forum (BSF) participated in the Lower School’s Black History Month assembly. We opened the assembly by reading the book The Undefeated, by Kwame Alexander, and we closed the assembly with the singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Black National Anthem. We also sang the song at the Upper School Black History Month Assembly earlier in the month.

Image 1: Photo from

The Undefeated was published in 2019, and it gives a historical and contemporary view of black history. It highlights the strength and dignity of African Americans and their survival in a country and in a world where the odds were stacked against them. The stunning illustrations by Kadir Nelson contribute greatly to the book and enhance its poignant qualities. The ending of the book is very uplifting. It speaks to young African Americans and works to infuse them with pride, hope, courage, and self-love that will benefit them as they continue the epic story of black history.

Image 2: Photo from

The words to “Lift Every Voice and Sing” were written in the early 1900s by James Weldon Johnson. His brother, John Rosamond Johnson, composed the music. The song’s powerful message has brought African Americans together for over 120 years. The song is a beacon of light from which many African Americans draw strength. The poetic lyrics and soaring melodies do an excellent job of capturing the sentiment of a people in a grand and powerful way. The first verse focuses on aspirations and coming triumphs. The second verse is more historical, diving into the pain and suffering that African Americans have endured. Verse three brings it home with a celebration of faith in God and a prayer. We sang all three verses to be sure to show the full power of the song. After we finished singing, the room erupted in applause, and I felt grateful to have had the opportunity to perform this masterpiece that is a staple of black history.

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