Back Watch: Poets, actors, and others launch Lift Every Voice with rousing online event

Video: The Lift Every Voice launch event (2:19)

NEW YORK, September 17, 2020 — A stunning array of talent came together for the launch of Lift Every Voice, a nationwide celebration of the 250-year-long African American poetic tradition presented by Library of America and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. The online event doubled as a publication party for African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song, the new Library of American anthology edited by poet, Schomburg Center Director, and New Yorker poetry editor Kevin Young.

Young hosted the nearly 2-1/2-hour livestreamed extravaganza that featured readings and discussions by Jericho Brown, Delana R. A. Dameron, Toi Derricotte, Joanne V. Gabbin, Tyehimba Jess, Patricia Spears Jones, jessica Care moore, Sonia Sanchez, Danez Smith, and Afaa Michael Weaver. Poetry readings by Phylicia Rashad, Elizabeth Alexander, and Mahershala Ali suggested some of the riches contained in the African American Poetry anthology, and saxophonist Kamasi Washington provided his own take on “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the James Weldon Johnson hymn that gives the project its name.

Individual highlight clips from the complete program will be posted to, the Lift Every Voice companion website that features more videos and commentary from Young, Alexander, Rashad, and Ali, along with additional resources for general readers and students alike.

Lift Every Voice is made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Emerson Collective and is presented in partnership with The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Other partners include the Poetry Foundation, the National Book Foundation, the Academy of American Poets, Poets House, Cave Canem, and the Center for African American Poetry & Poetics.

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