Republican Candidate for Attorney General Says Century-Old Poem is Sign of Leftist Takeover. It Isn’t.

Republican Candidate for Attorney General Says Century-Old Poem is Sign of Leftist Takeover. It Isn’t.

By Jason Salzman

May 13, 2022

A Republican campaigning to be Arizona’s top lawyer says the “radical left is genuinely taking over every aspect of our lives,” and he cites a “separate Black national anthem” to support his claim.

“Think about every single institution that has been taken over by the radical left,” said Arizona attorney general candidate Abe Hamadeh on KKNT radio’s Seth Leibsohn show March 25. “You know, it was always the university system and the colleges, and now they’re going into corporations: Big Tech, even the sports industry. You know, you can’t escape it now. There’s a separate Black national anthem.”

A Claim Without Context

There is no official Black national anthem in the United States, and an unofficial Black anthem, titled “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is not new, as Hamadeh implies.

The song is over a century old, written as a poem in 1899 by civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson and later set to music by Johnson’s brother John Rosamond Johnson in 1900.

Shana L. Redmond, an interdisciplinary scholar of music, race, and politics at UCLA, called Hamadeh’s statement “wildly ahistorical.”

“‘Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing’ was not born of the Left but of the violences of slavery and Jim Crow segregation, nor has it ever been exclusively used by the Left,” said Redmond, author of Anthem: Social Movements and the Sound of Solidarity in the African Diaspora, via email to The Copper Courier. Its co-author, James Weldon Johnson, was, in fact, a Republican before Black people left that party in droves. And it was Black people of every political stripe who made the song an anthem that was taken up not only in protest against Jim Crow segregation (which was not a leftist project by any means) but also in day camps, churches, and schools.”

Deep Roots in the Civil Rights Movement

James Weldon Johnson became the first African-American leader of the NAACP, which adopted “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as its song in 1919. It was also heard during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1860s.

“Beyond this history, it is not the case today that the song is respected or used exclusively by the Left,” wrote Redmond in her email. “As the candidate should know, there is an explicitly non-Left bipartisan effort by the House to establish ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing’ as the U.S. national hymn.” 

The song is widely performed today and was quoted in the benediction at Barack Obama’s first inauguration. 

Hamadeh’s campaign didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

More Unfounded Claims From Hamadeh

During his interview on the Seth Leibsohn show March 25, Hamadeh went on to claim that statues of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson have been replaced by statues of George Floyd. 

They’re trying to silence us,” said Hamadeh. “Because right now, if you go against the conventional wisdom, whatever their belief is of the day, they try to cancel from society. They’re removing George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln’s statues and putting up George Floyd. This is who we’re dealing with. They’re putting up George Floyd statues.”

After Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police in 2020, some statues of slaveholders and confederate leaders were, in fact, toppled by protesters, and some were removed by elected officials. 

Since then, officials and activists in multiple US cities have erected statues to honor Floyd, whose death sparked a national Black Lives Movement spotlighting police shootings of Black people. A Minneapolis jury found the police officer who killed Floyd guilty in April of 2021.

No statues of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln have been taken down in Arizona. Elected officials in New York removed a Jefferson statue from City Hall, because the former president was a slaveholder. It wasn’t replaced with a statue of Floyd. 

Hamadeh added during the radio interview that “we’re in this position in the country” not just because of the “radical left” but also because of “weak-kneed” Republicans, who “have been asleep.”

Long Road to the General Election

Hamadeh will likely face multiple Republican opponents in Arizona’s Aug. 2 Republican primary. The winner will take on Democrat Kris Mayes. Arizona’s current attorney general, Mark Brnovich cannot seek re-election due to term limits and is running for US Senate.

Hamadeh has been endorsed by defense officials from the Trump administration, according to the candidate’s website, including Robert O’Brien, Trump’s national security advisor; Ric Grenell, who served as Trump’s acting director of national intelligence; and Trump’s Secretary of Defense Chris Miller.

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