University of Florida Bell Tower Plays ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ During White Supremacist Richard Spencer’s Speech

As white supremacist leader Richard Spencer prepared to take the stage at the University of Florida, a concert of bells rang through campus leaving a poignant message of unity.

Laura Ellis, a music professor at the university, went up 11 flights of stairs in the school’s carillon tower on Thursday to play “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the black national anthem.

“I think it was an appropriate time to play this song, to show our support for those who need it the most,” Ellis told CNN.

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” was first written as a poem in 1900 by James Weldon Johnson as part of a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday at the all-black Stanton School in Jacksonville, Florida.

Johnson, a civil rights activist, was also the school’s principal. Johnson’s brother, John Rosamond Johnson put the poem to music.

The song was later adopted by the NAACP as its official song in 1919. It became a staple during the civil rights movement and remains a musical tradition in social, political and religious events in the African-American community.

Ellis and her students play the carillon — an instrument that consists in a series of tuned bells that are connected to a keyboard — in the iconic university tower. Twice a day, they perform three songs as hundreds of students walk between classes.

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SOURCE: CNN, Andrea Diaz and Nicole Chavez