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Sing a Song: How "Lift Every Voice and Sing" Inspired Generations

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  121 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Just in time for the 120th anniversary of the song "Lift Every Voice and Sing"--this stirring book celebrates the Black National Anthem and how it inspired five generations of a family.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us.
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.

In 1900, in Jacksonville, Florida, two brothers, one of them the
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published August 6th 2019 by Nancy Paulsen Books
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Average rating 4.34  · 
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 ·  121 ratings  ·  31 reviews

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Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Readers Who Love the Song, or Are Looking for Children's Books About the African-American Experience
Author Kelly Starling Lyons and illustrator Keith Mallett join forces in this beautiful picture-book tribute to that classic song, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," originally written and composed by African-American brothers James Weldon Johnson and R. Rosamond Johnson as a hymn for Abraham Lincoln's birthday. First performed on February 12, 1900, by a choir of five hundred African-American students - pupils at James Weldon Johnson's all-black Stanton School in Jacksonville, Florida - the song would ...more
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I hope the final book includes the complete lyrics for “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” so families and classes can learn and sing them together.
Mary Lee
"Lift Every Voice and Sing" is traced from its writing to the present day through generations of African American families, and important periods in American history.
The only thing missing from the book is a page at the back before the author's note with the entire song on a page. Yes, the song is written in italics into the story itself-- woven in-- but I want to see the entire song on the page.

Knowing a bit about the song only because each year at our opening Convocation celebration in my school district, this song is sung, it was a lovely story that shows how integral the song was to each generation for various reasons-- whether it be inspiring,
It's rare that a picture book gives me goosebumps, but this one did.
Surely this will receive some Coretta Scott King award love?!?

I didn't know the history behind "Lift Every Voice and Sing," but I loved how its history is told through the eyes of one African-American family who started singing it in Florida and how each generation learned the song and sang it at important events and times of American history, ending at the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture
Craig Wiesner
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Known as the Black National Anthem, this song was written as a tribute to Abraham Lincoln and sung by a 500 child choir in 1900. For generations it has been a source of inspiration, hope, and courage not just for African-Americans, but for all people, keeping the faith despite the difficult past and holding onto hope for our present and future. This beautiful picture book takes us all on the journey from the song's creation through the day when the National Museum of African American History was ...more
Abby Johnson
A beautiful book about the power of a song, often referred to as the Black national anthem, this book is also about the power of tradition and how culture gets passed down from generation to generation. Rich paintings illustrate generations of an African American family singing the song, passing down their traditions, and finding different occasions (graduations, family reunions, etc.) to give this song more layers of meaning. Perfect for discussing the power of the arts, oral traditions, ...more
Through the years, joyful, exuberant, strengthening, blessing - this book is a vibrant Black National Anthem tribute. Author Kelly Lyons retells the song's impact as it is passed from generation to generation. As the story is brought to a close in a child's experience at the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the author speaks to readers, encouraging them to "Keep on keeping on" and to pass on this legacy.
The history behind the hymn written by two brothers, James Weldon Johnson, and John Rosamond Johnson for the celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birthday, and how it went on to become known over the years as the Black National Anthem. The song has become a symbol of faith, brilliance, resistance, and resilience by the many generations that has sung it, and hope for the future generations who will continue to sing it.
Edward Sullivan
How "Lift Every Voice and Sing," written in 1900 for a tribute for Abraham Lincoln's birthday, became known as the Negro National Anthem, was adopted by the NAACP as its official song, and inspired millions of African Americans over the past 120 years.
Oct 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to Relyn by: The publisher sent it to me because I am on the Missouri Show Me committee.
I really loved this book and the story of the song that inspired generations. I love the circular feel of the story and how Lyons led you from on generation to the next. The illustrations were beautiful.
Emma (Miss Print)
May 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very beautiful artwork and I love the way this moves through generations. I think some of it would resonate more if I had more personal connection to the song, but that's fine.
It's not often that a book gives me goosebumps but this one did. Just beautiful.
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ryan-s-list
A wonderful story about "Life Every Voice and Sing" with the lyrics by James Weldon Johnson. Photos are on my cell.
Angie  Moore
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Absolutely beautiful book! Brought tears to my eyes.
Allie Outhouse
Dec 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
Beautiful images. Not a fan of the plot encouraging superiority of a race.
Oct 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: kid-literature
Gorgeous pictures.
Erica Flory
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a sweet story.
The illustrations! Love how the story is woven through the generations.
Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss.
Aug 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lovely story of the James Weldon Johnson's anthem Lift Every Voice and Sing.
Karrie Chajkowski
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful story following generations and culminating in the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Thanks to Nancy Paulson Books for the KBA review copy.
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
The illustrations in this one are really unique and beautiful.
Raven Black
Oct 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lovely story about how a song connected the past and present as well as keeping one family strong. Gorgeous illustrations
Sep 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lovely. Reminds me of Show Way.
This is a lovely book about how a song stuck with people through the years, and how it uplifted them.
Kathy Iwanicki
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Beautiful story that shows the power of song to inspire a generation. A must read aloud.
Oct 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
What a beautiful book this is. I loved the evocative illustrations, and I learned a history I was unfamiliar with.
Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to your 2020 Coretta Scott King Award winning book! Tenderly written and illustrated. Fingers crossed that the final version includes lyrics to the song (or is there some copyright issue at stake?).

EDITED: The final version DOES include the lyrics! Huzzah!
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Kelly Starling Lyons is a children's book author and founding member of The Brown Bookshelf (, a team of authors and illustrators dedicated to raising awareness of black children's book creators. As a kid, she rarely saw stories for young readers thatfeatured characters of color.Her mission is to make surechildren today have a different reality. Herbooks include NEATE: ...more