Attacked for singing the "black national anthem"

A relatively unknown jazz singer has caused outrage in the US after unexpectedly singing the "Black National Anthem" in place of the Star-Spangled Banner at a council event in Denver.

René Marie was invited to the city council's State of the City address on Tuesday where she was expected to sing America's traditional national anthem. However, although she sang to the right tune, the lyrics were those of writer James Weldon Johnson's hymn "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" - also known as "The Black National Anthem". The singer, who only told a few close friends about her plans, received mild applause. The council president Michael Hancock, who hosted the event and knew nothing about the alteration, received a barrage of insulting letters. The city's mayor, Michael Hickenlooper, said that the act showed a "lack of understanding" and that it overshadowed his speech. But Marie refuses to apologise, saying that she expressed herself artistically and would do the same thing again. As the controversy entered its third day, Barack Obama said yesterday that there "is only one national anthem" and she should have sung that one.

Marie's version of the national anthem

The hymn was written in 1899 by James Weldon Johnson and set to music by his brother a year later. It was performed in celebration of Lincoln's birthday in 1900. The lyrics can be found here.

"I'd have to say this kind of prejudice is normal over here"

Eric Tappen has been running an online resource centre for African-Americans called since 1996. He has the lyrics of Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing posted on the site.

We posted the lyrics around twelve years ago. It's a pretty song - it went under the poetry section. The song wasn't something that was supposed to be negative at all. It's actually very optimistic. The writer's father was most likely a slave. I'm not going to take it off the site because of this - why should I? Our website is just a resource for African-Americans.

She [Rene Marie] is not a well known singer; I don't know what she did it for. It's 2008, we're trying to move forward. It was absolutely silly and it wouldn't hurt her to apologise.

In the last 24 hours we've had 24,000 hits and received hate-mail from three people. I got called a separatist just for having an African-American website. They say things like "Go back to Africa". I normally only get those kinds of emails during Black History Month. I think it's the blue-collar worker that's afraid that the African-Americans are passing him. And he's right in some ways. The comments I received last night: they weren't well written, the grammar and spelling were awful. These are not intelligent people.

I'd have to say this kind of prejudice is normal over here. I had a guestbook on the website for many months, but we got so many nasty, irrelevant comments, we had to take it off. It was just a free forum to call people "niggers". It's such a shame."

"She did it to water down patriotism in this country"

Jim Wilkinson is a business owner from south Texas. He's a far-right supporter of the Republican Party.

This is an utter disgrace, an attack on traditional values. You should respect our flag and our country, especially at this time of year, coming up to the 4th of July. If I were there I'd have walked out. This woman should be reprimanded.

She did it to water down patriotism in this country like all liberals do. It's the defragmenting of our society - everyone wants to go their own separate ways now. The shift that's occurred in the past 20 years is what's causing problems now. We should not continue that.

I've never even heard of that song. If they wave some other flag or sing some other song then they're not part of our country. These people want to be victims. I don't know if this kind of thing is a result of this Obama period, but Obama is a black liberal socialist. I don't like the man. He's anti-America, anti-military, and anti-white people."


Not the national anthem ?

I'm afraid I'm old enough to remember the outcry generated when Jimi Hendrix performed live renditions not only of Stars 'n' Stripes, but also God Save the Queen - not only was he black, but also had Native American (I think that's the politically correct term) blood. The world didn't stop turning, Black Panther cadres did not blow up Europe, oh and our Queen - god bless your majesty - is still on the throne. A tune by any other name !

black national anthem

I feel that when one is requested to sing the national anthem of a particular nation (in this case - America), then that is what should be sung. If it was in Canada, it would have been 'Oh, Canada' not a black national anthem. What is the black nation anyway? There are blacks all over the world and they all should sing the anthem of the country to which they are citizens. A black french person would not sing a black anthem, would they? No, they would sing the national anthem of France, as it should be. If one is not happy with the country in which they live, move and become a citizen of another country. There are asians, caucasians, hispanics also and what national anthems would they sing? The one belonging to the nation of which they are citizens. Here in the United States, it would be our national anthem. This woman was wrong.

"Black National Anthem"

I find her singing this in place of our National Anthem extremely insulting!
I happen to be white, but worked very hard for the Civil Rights movement.
I did this because I believe "all men are created equal."
She's a lousy American in my opinion, & if she 'doesn't feel American," she should go somewhere else!

Black National Anthem

Whether or not she was wrong is not the point. Many people including many "patriotic, God fearing Americans" do a lot of "wrong" things. The question is what if anything is a reasonable response. Out of necessity and mental self-preservation on most days I simply ignore all of the "wrong" around me. It is disturbing to me to say the least how little one needs to do to set off fountains of hate in America these days.

black national anthem

When it stops being a novelty to be "black" then maybe we can get somewhere. That's when the inside WILL mean more than the coating. We cut ourselves off at the feet by perpetuating a victim mentality.

Why I Left the United States

I grew up in the South (Alabama) and I heard this song many times. It is if anything an old Negro spiritual with absolutely no political message what so ever. It is inspirational for any of those who still have an open heart and mind. I left the United States precisely because I felt that my country would never become the type of progressive liberal democracy that I would want to live in in my own lifetime. Stories like this and the venomous hate speech it has inspired confirm my decision. The Republican Party and FOX News especially have made America safe for hate again. I fear that we are on the precipice of tyranny and fascism. May God save us all.

It sure is insulting to

It sure is insulting to Americans. What if an American singer messed up the French National Anthem? I don't think the French would be too pleased, so just because some Americans are self-deprecating, don't assume that all Americans are like that, because I certainly am not one of those.

This is not your country.

This is not your country. Americans are nothing but thieves and killers. This land belongs to God, for him to do as he pleases. Every man women and child has the right to walk upon this land, to cherish it, to desecrate it. This land is not yours, mine, nor does it belong to any Native American. We are simply passerby's given the chance to cherish land which belongs to the almighty. Beyond that, your ignorant if you think otherwise. Thank God you live on such sacred ground, because remember, al those who believe this is their land, they took hold of this land through thievery, slavery, and murder, and if you associate with them, it means your are as they are too.

"Americans are nothing but

"Americans are nothing but thieves and killers."

And you're so much more tolerant and enlightened!

This is not your country.

You do not say if you are an American or not, if you are and this is truly the way you feel, you are free to leave. The very freedom that you have to leave or stay has been paid for in blood by the American Veterans, who fought so you could have the freedom to spout off at the mouth or leave the country. If you were a citizen of a Communistic country or a dictatorship somewhere you would be denied these very rights.