#Resist: Music Professor Plays Black National Anthem From Bell Tower Before Richard Spencer’s Fla. Speech

Richard Spencer at the University of Florida in Gainesville on Oct. 19, 2017 (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

As white nationalist troglodyte Richard Spencer prepared to take the stage for his University of Florida speech Thursday, James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (aka the black national anthem) rang throughout campus.

Laura Ellis, a music professor at the university, went up 11 flights of stairs into the school’s carillon tower on Thursday to play the song in order “to show our support for those who need it most,” Ellis told CNN.


Ellis teaches the carillon, an instrument that plays tuned bells in combination with a keyboard. She and her students perform three songs twice a day from the university’s bell tower as students walk between classes.

On Thursday the sound of the bells took on a special tone as the school found itself embroiled in strife over the white nationalist’s speech.


Even though Florida Gov. Rick Scott had declared a state of emergency for Alachua County, where the university is located, in case of the same violence that broke out when Spencer participated in a march in Charlottesville, Va., in August, on Thursday there were only two arrests, and more than 2,500 demonstrators marched against the man credited with starting the “alt-right” movement.

Appropriately, James Weldon Johnson was principal of the all-black Stanton School in Florida when he first debuted “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as a poem in 1900. The poem was set to music by Johnson’s brother, John Rosamond Johnson, and the song was later adopted by the NAACP as its official song 19 years later.


Read more at CNN.

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Angela Helm

Ms. Bronner Helm is a Contributing Editor at The Root. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.