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Clyburn to propose making 'Black national anthem' official US national hymn

Clyburn to propose making 'Black national anthem' official US national hymn
© Bonnie Cash

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said this week he plans on introducing a measure to make “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” known as the "Black national anthem," the official U.S. hymn in an effort to promote unity.

The song, which celebrates resilience, was first written as a poem in 1899 by James Weldon Johnson, former leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). It was later set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson.

“To make it a national hymn, I think, would be an act of bringing the country together. It would say to people, ‘You aren’t singing a separate national anthem, you are singing the country’s national hymn,' ” Clyburn told USA Today. “The gesture itself would be an act of healing. Everybody can identify with that song.”

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As USA Today notes, the song has long been sung in the Black community, but Clyburn said he believes it is time for it to be heard everywhere.

Michael K. Fauntroy, a political scientist at Howard University, told the newspaper he's concerned that people may overestimate the importance of symbolic victories such as elevating "Lift Every Voice and Sing," substituting them for actual change.

"It's symbolically notable for Black people, but in the larger scheme of things this isn’t going to put food on people’s table, it’s not going to increase people’s pay," Fauntroy said.

Clyburn's move to promote unity comes less than a week after pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol, seeking to reverse the results of the 2020 election. Since then, House Democrats have filed articles of impeachment against President TrumpDonald TrumpMaria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' The Memo: The center strikes back Republicans eye Nashville crack-up to gain House seat MORE for inciting the rioters.

While appearing on CNN on Sunday, Clyburn said he believes Trump should be impeached for his phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which he appeared to pressure the state official to "find" enough votes to overturn President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenExpanding child tax credit could lift 4 million children out of poverty: analysis Maria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' The Memo: The center strikes back MORE's victory in the state.