Julius Lester

A Day Bright With Sunshine

By Julius Lester

At Barack Obama’s inauguration, when the Rev. Joseph Lowery began his benediction by quoting the third and final stanza of James Weldon Johnson’s poem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” he provided the historical memory for this historic occasion. I recognized the words immediately and was taken back to the late 1940s and the Sunday afternoons when the NAACP held meetings at my father’s church in Kansas City, Kan. At the beginning of those gatherings, we would stand and sing the words Lowery quoted to a melody written by Johnson’s brother, J. Rosemund Johnson. The song was known as the “Negro National Hymn.” In those days even Aretha Franklin could not have sung “My Country ’Tis of Thee” with the emotion and conviction she did earlier in the inaugural proceedings.Read More

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