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vanessa williams

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Since news broke that her pre-recorded performances of “Lift Every Voice And Sing” and the “Star-Spangled Banner” would air during PBS’ 41st annual “A Capitol Fourth” event, former Miss America and chart-topping singer Vanessa Williams has been getting a lot of heat.

In short, The Wrap reported that drama surrounding the song choices was set off when political news outlet The Hill covered the story and referring to “Lift Every Voice And Sing” by its other name — the Black National Anthem.

As the first Black woman to be crowned Miss America back in 1983, Williams shared that with President Joe Biden officializing Juneteenth as a national holiday last month, she felt performing the song was a great way to honor America’s newest holiday — a day which celebrates the freedom of Black slaves in this country — while also celebrating what the outlet referred to as “the nation’s traditional independence day.”

“It’s in celebration of the wonderful opportunity that we now have to celebrate Juneteenth. So we are reflective of the times,” Williams told the Associated Press on the Friday ahead of July 4.

Unfortunately, many weren’t here for the star’s performance of The Black National Anthem. In the replies to The Hill tweet sharing the news of Williams performance, people said things like:

“What? I thought we were ALL Americans?! Now divided by color? What happened to one nation, under God, indivisible? Talk about dividing us…”

“Seems kinda like segregation…” 

“Lift Every Voice and Sing, is not any National Anthem. There is only one NATIONAL ANTHEM ‘THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER'”

and “What is the Asian National anthem? The Latino national anthem? Just curious.”

Poignantly, many other replies countered the aforementioned with tweets from an educational standpoint on the history of “Lift Every Voice And Sing.” A few of them read:

“Dear Racists, ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ was published in 1905, 116 yrs ago. Some of us choose not to sing a National Anthem whose 3rd stanza boasts about killing our ancestors: ‘No refuge could save the hireling and slave From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.'”

“‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ has been named the ‘Black National Anthem’ and an anthem of our experiences/culture for 100+ years. It’s been sung for generations as our anthem. These comments attest to the extend of how invisible we are treated in this country.”

and “Often referred to as ‘The Black National Anthem,’ ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ was a hymn written as a poem by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson in 1900 (a mere 35 years after the end of slavery) His brother, John Rosamond Johnson, composed the music for the lyrics.”

View the performance down below.

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