On this Juneteenth, watch two musical events celebrating African American history

On this Juneteenth 2020, the June 19 holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, two musical events produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2018 remind people everywhere that “black and white, bond and free, male and female” — all are alike unto God (2 Nephi 26:33).

'Lift Every Voice and Sing'

When members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) attended the weekly “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast by the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square in May 2018, the choir performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the “Black American National Anthem.”

Members of the NAACP were in Salt Lake City at the time for their first-ever national national leadership meetings. They also met with the First Presidency and made a joint statement, calling for “greater civility, racial and ethnic harmony, and mutual respect.”

James Weldon Johnson, a school principal and poet, wrote the words to "Lift Every Voice and Sing" in 1900. The NAACP praised the song in 1919 for "its power in voicing the cry for liberation and affirmation for African-American people."

'Be One' music celebration

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the June 1978 revelation on the priesthood, a revelation that allowed men of black African descent to hold the priesthood, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hosted a special musical event in June 2018 themed "Be One" — based on the Savior’s admonition to “be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine” (D&C 38:27).

The 1978 revelation confirmed that “the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood.” Since the revelation, Church membership in Africa has gone from 7,500 to over 666,000, with new stakes and wards created every week.

The musical celebration included performances by Gladys Knight, Alex Boyé, the Bonner family, the Unity Gospel Choir International and members of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.

Related Stories
It’s all about soul: What one choir is doing to put a little ‘gospel’ into the gospel
Black Latter-day Saint history on display in the Church History Library
Sarah Jane Weaver: The surprising lesson I learned about race from an unexpected friend
Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed