School District Sparks ‘Woke’ Outrage for Removing Black National Anthem from Concert

By: Georgia | Published: May 19, 2024

The decision by Spring Cove Middle School to remove the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” from their upcoming concert has caused a stir in the community. 

The Blair County School District Superintendent Betsy Baker and Middle School Principal Amy Miller announced the decision just a day before the event, citing potential community divisiveness as the reason. Baker explained to The Altoona Mirror, “We wanted everyone to feel comfortable,” suggesting the move was to avoid controversy.

Historical Significance of the Anthem

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” was composed in 1900 by James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson, leaders in the NAACP.

Black and white portrait of James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson, early 20th-century leaders of the NAACP and composers of the song "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The song has since been regarded as the Black National Anthem. 


NAACP to Conduct Formal Investigation

Following the decision to cut the anthem from the concert, the Blair County NAACP announced plans to conduct a formal investigation into the matter. 

A banner featuring the NAACP logo displayed at the 83rd Annual Maryland State Conference

Source: Ralph Patterson II/Facebook

The investigation aims to understand the rationale behind the decision and its impact on the community, ensuring that the cultural significance of the anthem is respected and preserved.

Parental Concerns Over Song Removal

Stephen Hershberger, a parent whose child was set to perform in the concert, expressed his disappointment to The Altoona Mirror, saying, “Cutting the song just sends the message that a few individuals’ discomfort outweighs the perspective and care and concern of minority students and others who don’t have the same beliefs as them.” 

A diverse group of young students sitting attentively in a classroom while a male teacher gives a presentation

Source: Kenny Eliason/Unsplash

He argued for more inclusive options that respect diverse viewpoints.

School Officials Discuss Their Decision

In an interview, Superintendent Baker and Principal Miller discussed their challenging position of balancing differing opinions within the community.

Colorful classroom decorations with letters spelling "WELCOME" above student artwork featuring butterflies and bees

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Education/Facebook

Baker stated, “We can’t make everyone happy,” reflecting on the difficulties of their decision-making process in the diverse school environment.

The Role of Student Comfort

The decision to remove the anthem was influenced by concerns from students about the song potentially causing controversy.

A group of educators participating in a workshop in a classroom setting, engaging with learning materials and each other

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Education/Facebook

School officials aimed to create a comfortable environment for all participants by addressing these concerns directly, although this led to the removal of a culturally significant song from the event.


NAACP President Criticizes the Decision

Andrae Holsey, president of the Blair County NAACP, said that the song “calls us into unity together,” and described the decision to remove it as “the first step in a slippery slope.” 

Close-up of a cheerful young man with a bright smile, wearing a patterned shirt, standing in front of a textured brick wall

Source: the_real_drae/X

His comments reflect the NAACP’s view that the decision could lead to further divisive actions.


Reflecting Broader Societal Issues

The controversy surrounding the removal of the anthem illustrates broader societal issues related to race and representation.

View from behind of a diverse audience seated in a seminar hall, focused on a speaker in the distance

Source: Sam Balye/Unsplash

Hershberger’s comment highlights the ongoing challenges faced by minority students, emphasizing that “Being a minority student is already a daunting task.”


Broader Community Impact

The school district’s decision has triggered a complex dialogue about race, representation, and education in Blair County. 

A group of young children, focused intently on their drawings and crafts, seated around tables in a well-lit art classroom

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Education/Facebook

With the community sharply divided, the upcoming NAACP investigation is eagerly anticipated.


Future of School Concerts in Question

As the dust settles on this decision, the future of inclusivity in school concerts remains uncertain. 

A large, diverse choir dressed in blue robes performing on stage, with a view from the audience perspective showing the choir arranged in several rows during a concert

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The district faces a critical examination of how it chooses to represent and respect its diverse student body in school-sponsored events.


The Challenge of Balancing Diverse Views

The district’s leaders are continually tasked with finding a middle ground in a community with diverse viewpoints.

A classroom scene showing a student raising her hand eagerly while another student presents a project in front of the class

Source: Taylor Flowe/Unsplash

Their decisions impact the school’s culture and the community’s perception of inclusivity and respect for historical and cultural legacies.


What Comes Next for the Community and School

The NAACP’s planned investigation and the ongoing community response will likely influence how similar situations are handled in the future. 

Close-up of a commemorative plaque for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), showing the organization's emblem and the founding year 1909

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The outcome of this controversy may set a precedent for addressing cultural sensitivities in educational settings across the district.