PBS has divided opinion with its decision to have Vanessa Williams sing the ‘Black National Anthem’ during its July 4 celebration, in a nod to Juneteenth being made a federal holiday.
The singer and actress, who was the first black woman to be crowned Miss America, will perform the song ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ while hosting PBS’s 41st ‘A Capitol Fourth’ annual celebration, which airs Sunday.
The song was first written as a poem in 1900 by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson and has long held the nickname as the ‘Black National Anthem.’
Williams said her performance of the song will not only honor the nation’s traditional Independence Day, but also the country’s newly designated holiday.
‘It’s in celebration of the wonderful opportunity that we now have to celebrate Juneteenth. So we are reflective of the times,’ she told the Associated Press.
The song is not replacing the US National Anthem, with Grammy Award-winning singer Renée Fleming opening the show with a special performance of the traditional tune.
Several other singers and musicians will also be performing a variety of different tunes during the celebration including Gladys Knight, Jimmy Buffet, Cynthia Erivo and Alan Jackson.
PBS has divided opinion with its decision to have Vanessa Williams sing the ‘Black National Anthem’ during its July 4 celebration, in a nod to Juneteenth being made a federal holiday. Williams on the show airing Sunday
The singer and actress performs the song ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ while hosting PBS’s 41st ‘A Capitol Fourth’ annual celebration, which will air Sunday
But the inclusion of the ‘Black National Anthem’ has sparked controversy on social media.
Some social media users hit out at the announcement, calling it ‘divisive’ and a contradiction of efforts to create ‘unity.’
‘I view this as divisive creating a culture only caring about skin color, makes her a useful Fool for the left!’ one person tweeted.
Another person wrote: ‘If you want unity, a black national anthem doesn’t sound like it.
‘Vanessa Williams will be performing that song (whatever the hell it is) at the Capitol Fourth celebration.’
Some slammed the move as ‘ridiculous’ and ‘woke’, accusing the inclusion of the song as a way to ‘create racism.’
‘This is ridiculous. There is no black America. There is no ‘Black National Anthem’ as there is not a black nation,’ one person tweeted.
‘There is one nation under God. Everything this woke culture does is something to divide us. I will not be watching as you create racism.’
Others hit out at the celebration of Juneteenth on July 4 that is ‘for ALL Americans.’
‘What a farce! July 4th is for ALL Americans regardless of race. Not singing the National Anthem is discriminatory toward everyone who is NOT black,’ one person wrote.
The song is not replacing the US National Anthem, with Grammy Award-winning singer Renée Fleming opening the show with a special performance of the traditional tune (above)
Some social media users hit out at the announcement, calling it ‘divisive’ and a contradiction of efforts to create ‘unity’
‘July 4th is not the childish Juneteenth but the national day of celebrating our Independence.’
‘Well isn’t that cute. That will really bring country together,’ added another.
‘So every skin color & nationality should have its own national Anthem? So where do you stop?’
Juneteenth commemorates the official end of slavery in the US when the last group of enslaved African Americans learned of their freedom under President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.
Joe Biden signed a bill into law two days before the celebration last month, declaring it the first Juneteenth National Independence Day.
A total of 14 House Republicans voted against the bill to make it a federal holiday with some arguing it would divide Americans based on race and have them choose between celebrating Juneteenth or July 4 – an argument some appeared to push online over Williams’ song choice.
Others questioned why Williams was not performing the US National Anthem.
The arguments from GOP lawmakers against Juneteenth:
Juneteenth, the day marking the emancipation of slaves in the US, was finally made a federal holiday last month after 155 years.
Joe Biden signed a bill into law two days before the celebration, declaring it the first Juneteenth National Independence Day.
While the Senate unanimously passed the bill, a total of 14 House Republicans voted against making it a federal holiday.
Some voting against it claimed it would divide Americans based on race and have them choose between celebrating Juneteenth or July 4.
Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky claimed: ‘Naming this day ‘National Independence Day’ would create confusion and push Americans to pick one of those two days as their independence day based on their racial identity.’
Rep. Chip Roy of Texas made a similar argument: ‘This name needlessly divides our nation on a matter that should instead bring us together by creating a separate Independence Day based on the color of one’s skin.’
Rep. Andy Biggs objected to the phrase Independence Day in the holiday’s formal name and said he would have voted for it if it was called ‘Juneteenth National Emancipation Day.’
‘A long time admirer of Vanessa Williams. Why not the National Anthem Vanessa?’ one person wrote.
However, other people celebrated the news of Williams singing the song, saying ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ is the ‘only national anthem’ they will recognize.
‘Vanessa Williams….that’s the only national anthem I’ll acknowledge on the 4th,’ one person wrote.
‘I’m always happy to hear Vanessa Williams sing anything at all, but this I am especially looking forward to!’ added another.
Several others mocked the people up in arms over the song, pointing out that the song has been around for a century and that the ‘Black National Anthem’ is simply a nickname.
‘So many of my fellow white people shedding so many white tears over the ‘controversy’ of Vanessa Williams singing a song at the 4th of July shindig tomorrow…’ one person wrote.
‘You gotta love it…! So much manufactured outrage! My advice? Get over it. Seriously.’
Another person agreed, writing: ‘White people being up in arms about Vanessa Williams performing Lift Every Voice and Sing is really interesting. This song has existed as the Black National Anthem for over 100 years.
‘They really have no clue about Black culture, while we know them better than they realize.’
Another person questioned how Americans have not heard the song before: ‘Ma’am… Are you seriously trying to tell us you’ve never heard of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ aka ‘The Black National Anthem’?
‘And why are you going after Vanessa Williams? She isn’t the one who dubbed the song with this nickname.’
Meanwhile, one person posted a photo of some of the pro-Trump mob who stormed the US Capitol on January 6 in a violent riot that left five dead.
‘Actual photos of the people pissed about the Black national anthem,’ they wrote.
‘Karen would like to speak to Vanessa Williams manager.’
Williams said her performance of the song will not only honor the nation’s traditional Independence Day, but also the country’s newly designated holiday
‘It’s in celebration of the wonderful opportunity that we now have to celebrate Juneteenth. So we are reflective of the times,’ she said
This comes amid the controversy over Gwen Berry turning her back while the National Anthem was played.
Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry turned away during the games qualifiers last week and draped a black T-shirt with the words ‘Activist Athlete’ emblazoned on over her head when the anthem played.
Berry said she does not hate America and does want to represent the country at the Games in Tokyo, but said she had a specific problem with the Star-Spangled Banner
The social media uproar comes as the traditional US National Anthem has become shrouded in controversy due to lyrics many feel are racist. Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry turned away during the games qualifiers when it was played