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Feb 25 2021

Lecture by Dr. Sonya Donaldson: Singing the Nation: “Memory, Meaning, and Resistance in ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing'”

Black History Month

February 25, 2021

3:00 PM - 4:30 PM



Dr. Sonya Donaldson wearing a yellow coat and smiling toward the camera

In her digital humanities project, “Singing the Nation Into Being,” Dr. Sonya Donaldson has created an archive of performances, remixes, and mashups of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”  The song, also known as the African American Anthem, was written by James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson for 500 schoolchildren to perform in honor of Booker T. Washington in 1900.

Building on this research, Dr. Donaldson will lecture about the ways that Black women's voices have been used in public performances, including this song, to promote a sense of "we-ness" at different moments in U.S. history.

Ahead of Dr. Donaldson's presentation, UIC students are invited to submit videos of themselves performing or talking about the song.

CART live captioning will be provided. Please send any questions or additional accommodation requests to

Thanks to the UIC African American Cultural Center and Honors College for co-sponsoring this Black History Month keynote lecture.




Date posted

Feb 1, 2021

Date updated

Feb 24, 2021


Dr. Sonya Donaldson | Associate Professor, English | New Jersey City University

Sonya Donaldson is Associate Professor of English at New Jersey City University, Director of the Lee Hagan Africana Studies Center, and coordinator of the African and African American Studies Program. In addition to her digital humanities project, “Singing the Nation," Donaldson is also completing a book manuscript, Irreconcilable Differences?: Memory, History, and the Echoes of Diaspora, which examines autobiographical narratives, music, and performances by Black writers and artists in Germany, the U.K., and the USA. She was the 2016 recipient of a Mellon Career Enhancement Junior Faculty Fellowship, a 2019 Virginia Humanities Fellowship, and was recently a Visiting Scholar at the University of Virginia’s Scholars Lab. Donaldson is also a former Technology Editor at Black Enterprise magazine, and completed stints at Inc. magazine, Ziff-Davis publications, and the L.A. Daily News. Her scholarly work has appeared in Callaloo, The Feminist Wire, African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal, and Women, Gender, and Families of Color.