Vanessa Williams 'Black National Anthem' Performance During PBS 4th of July Event Ruffles Feathers
Vanessa Williams and PBS caused quite a stir earlier in the week when it was announced the former Miss America would sing the "Black national anthem" during the July 4 celebration. The performance by the host is meant to mark the establishment of Juneteenth as a federal holiday this year, though some saw it as another slice of "woke" culture being forced upon a day of alleged unity. Luckily Williams and PBS also had plenty of supporters.
"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. "We are reflective of the times and I'm happy to be part of a tremendous show that the producers are aware and willing to make the changes that have happened within the past year and a half."
The inclusion of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" isn't meant to replace the national anthem, it will still be there too and performed by Renee Fleming. But it still has people up in arms on social media and elsewhere, no doubt assisted by coverage highlighting it.
"Vanessa honey, a BLACK national anthem is something a Black African Country would have, not a country like America that exists for everyone," Republican Lavern Spicer from Florida's 24th District tweeted, claiming that Independence Day was meant to be a moment for the country to stand together.
"We are ONE Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for ALL," former Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis added to the fray. Meanwhile, a slew of defenders also came in online, praising the decision and Williams. They also made clear that Williams has always been under attack, citing her short-lived Miss America victory.
Lift Every Voice and Sing 🎤
Not only Black National Anthem
... it’s Vanessa Williams’ jam! pic.twitter.com/wtZbIOBEjN— The Astute Galoot (@TheAstuteGaloot) July 3, 2021
"Vanessa Williams is singing a song tonight representing Unity and Freedom. It was also originally written in celebration of the birthday of the first Republican President," one defender wrote. "The Black National Anthem that Vanessa Williams will be singing at the Capitol for Fourth of July is called Lift Every Voice and Sing," another added. "It always amazes me when people don't know that. Did y'all really think this was another Beyoncé song during Coachella"
"Lift Every Voice and Sing" was written by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson in 1900, growing in popularity throughout the Civil Rights era and beyond. The decision to include it during PBS' A Capitol Fourth has nothing to do with replacing anything.