Lift Every Voice and Sing

Lift Every Voice and Sing

4.5 2
by James Weldon Johnson, Jan Spivey Gilchrist

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Written by civil rights leader and poet James Weldon Johnson in 1899, ³Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing² is sung in schools and churches throughout America. The popular, timeless song is recognized as a testimonial to the struggle and achievements of African-American people ­ past, present, and future.


Written by civil rights leader and poet James Weldon Johnson in 1899, ³Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing² is sung in schools and churches throughout America. The popular, timeless song is recognized as a testimonial to the struggle and achievements of African-American people ­ past, present, and future.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Between the sober linocuts and the devotional text, this adaptation of what was once called the Negro National Anthem fairly effuses seriousness of purpose. Lyrics from a song written by two schoolteacher brothers in 1900 in honor of Abraham Lincoln's birthday caption prints created in 1946 and '47 by the granddaughter of slaves; the emphasis here is on suffering, deliverance and gratitude to God. A picture of the victim of a hanging, for example, faces ``We have come over a way that with tears has been watered / We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered.'' The score is provided at the end. Throughout, two-color art yields black-and-blue borders, while that blue, an almost turquoise tone, splashes through some of the linocuts. Much like ``The Star-Spangled Banner,'' the production of this anthem is big on reverence and short on spontaneity. All ages. (Feb.)
Publishers Weekly
"Gilchrist's colored pencil, gouache and watercolor art is as emotion-charged as the lyrics of what is widely considered the African-American national anthem," said PW. All ages. (Feb.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Beverly Kobrin
James Weldon Johnson's Lift Ev'ry Voice And Sing, beautifully illustrated by Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, is a picture book for young children. Set to music by J. Rosamond Johnson, the poet's brother, it is considered many people to be the African-American National Anthem.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-An oversized illustrated version of the song that is known as the African American National Anthem. Countless black Americans have sung it in fraternal groups, in church, and to open or end a meeting. Yet, it is one thing to sing it and quite another to see and actually think about what it says. The images are stunning, and even more so when set off by Gilchrist's bold, dramatic artwork. She seamlessly blends scenes of Africa with those of black America. With colored pencil, gouache, and watercolors, she brings the words to life. Another picture-book version of this classic work (Walker, 1993) is illustrated with linocuts by the legendary Elizabeth Catlett. That artwork, done in the 1940s, reflects the very real oppression and discrimination African Americans were enduring at the time. Catlett's vision is spare and stark, depicting in the careworn faces of her women a grim determination to survive. Both books are a wonderful way to introduce a younger generation to a poem that has played so unique a role in black history.-Carol Jones Collins, Montclair Kimberley Academy, NJ
Carolyn Phelan
Interpreting the moving anthem "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," this picture book offers illustrations inspired by the hymn yet not bound by a literal interpretation of the words. Combining colored pencil, gouache, and watercolor, the impressionistic artwork embodies the spirit of the music and the feelings of those who sing it. A series of free-form images show black people in Africa, in slavery, in modern times, and, ultimately, timeless. These adults and children are not just free in their temporal lives, but in their spirits: there are people enduring darkness and storms, springing from the sea, and soaring through the air. By illustrating not just the words, but also the grace and strength of the music and the emotions that this song stirs in singers and listeners, Gilchrist offers artwork that goes beyond visual representation to make a personal statement, "full of faith . . . full of hope." Music and lyrics are appended on the last double-page spread, followed by the artist's note.
Hazel Rochman
All ages. Widely known as the African American national anthem, Johnson's song is combined here with dramatic linocut prints by the celebrated artist Elizabeth Catlett. The song was originally written for schoolchildren at an Abraham Lincoln birthday celebration in 1900. The pictures were originally created in the 1940s as part of Catlett's series on black women through history. Together they make not a literal matching of words and illustrations but a powerful image of ordinary people enduring through hard times. The book design is clear and handsome: on the right-hand page of each double-page spread a few lines of the song are framed by turquoise and black geometric borders; on the facing page is a print, usually in black-and-white. At the end of the book is the full sheet music. Catlett has lived in Mexico since the 1940s, and her art is reminiscent of Diego Rivera's murals, with strong, swirling lines, almost like sculpture at times. Most of the prints are portraits of women--some famous and militant, like Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman; some unknown, their individual figures set against field and city. One unforgettable picture focuses on a weary woman riding the bus behind the "Colored Only" sign; her face makes us imagine her story. Another print shows two women facing each other but alone, segregated city blocks in the background. The art expresses what Jim Haskins says in the introduction about Johnson's song: "it was honest about all the suffering black Americans had undergone but celebrated our triumph over that suffering."
Kirkus Reviews
In his highly iconic reinterpretation of the beloved "Negro National Anthem," Collier was inspired by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Below the words of the song on each double-paged spread, a loose visual storyline follows a young boy through his day. Readers see him rising; going to school; with his class, visiting the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., where a 1963 bombing killed four young girls; laying a wreath at Dr. Martin Luther King's statue, which faces the church; and singing the words of Johnson's momentous song. Two intentional unifying visual elements predominate: water (the slave ships of the Middle Passage, the symbolic drinking fountain of the Civil Rights era, a reflecting pool) and the often upraised, lustrous faces of black school children, sometimes profiled in the clouds. A bright blue predominates in intensely hued skies and school uniforms, while Collier's highly recognizable style incorporates watercolor and collage to meaningful effect. (illustrator's note, words with music) (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-8)

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Fiction Picture Book Series
Product dimensions:
9.37(w) x 12.35(h) x 0.39(d)
Age Range:
7 Years

Meet the Author

James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) was a prolific writer and legendary civil rights activist who produced several novels, a pioneering work of cultural history, the first major anthology of black poetry, and numerous treatises on race relations. He served as U.S. consul to Venezuela and Nicaragua and as secretary of the NAACP.

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Lift Every Voice and Sing 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bryan Collier provides a wonderful accompanying illustration of the powerful 1900 anthem by James Weldon Johnson. Presented in a manner that will be inspiring for young minds, they should be able to feel the "song full of hope" that was made manifest in the inauguration of President Obama in 2009. And, with that inspiration, may they remain true as they go forth on life's journey.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago