White conservatives complained Sunday (July 4) after Vanessa Williams performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” known as the Black National Anthem. Williams announced she’d be performing the song as part of her hosting duties for PBS’ “A Capitol Fourth” special in recognition of Juneteenth becoming a national holiday.
“It’s in celebration of the wonderful opportunity that we now have to celebrate Juneteenth,” Williams said in promoting the televised special, according to USA Today. “So we are reflective of the times.”
Just hearing that the song, written by James Weldon Johnson, would be performed during the Independence Day celebration fueled online complaints from white conservatives who said the song is “divisive,” and accused the network and Williams of promoting “segregation.” Some said it was “racist” to have anything other than “The Star Spangled Banner” be performed on the Fourth of July.
Williams went on with the performance, saying that she was “filled with the spirit of freedom and the perseverance that is required to achieve that most precious right.”
“I dedicate this to our ancestors, to our new federal holiday Juneteenth and to all who celebrate,” Williams added.
People on social media were confused by the outrage to the performance and supported Williams' rendition of the iconic tune.