PBS sparked a backlash with its decision to ask Vanessa Williams to perform “the black national anthem” on its July 4 coverage – with critics calling the move divisive and un-American.
Williams’ performance on the station’s annual Capitol Fourth Sunday night show is intended to celebrate the recognition of the Juneteenth establishment as a federal holiday.
“This is to celebrate the wonderful opportunity we now have to celebrate Juneteenth. So we’re like the times, ”the actress and singer, who was the first black woman to win the Miss America pageant, told The Associated Press.
“We’re like the times and I’m happy to be a part of a great show that the producers are aware of and keen to make with the changes that have taken place over the past year and a half.”
Her rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” won’t replace the U.S. national anthem, which will be sung by Grammy Award-winning Renée Fleming, but she has always bitterly divided people on social media.
Lavern Spicer, a Republican candidate from Florida’s 24th District, who is black, said the song could divide the country one day when people are expected to stand together.
“Vanessa darling, a BLACK national anthem is something a black African country would have, not a country like America that exists for everyone”, Spicer tweeted.
Author Tim Young echoed Spicer’s concerns, Tweeter: “Nothing will unite us as a nation more than separate but equal national anthems …”
“It’s not unity… it’s division,” Young reiterated. in a follow-up tweet.
Former Weld County, Colorado Assistant District Attorney and Trump attorney Jenna Ellis used the words of the Pledge of Allegiance to show her frustration.
“We are ONE Nation, under God, indivisible, with freedom and justice for ALL”, Ellis tweeted.
“We are witnessing the fraying of E pluribus unum in real time,” railed former CIA officer Brian Dean Wright, referring to the traditional United States motto, which in Latin means “Out of many, one “.
“The consequences will be dire,” warned Dean Wright.
Other social media critics also denounced the decision to perform two anthems.
“I didn’t get the memo, do we have a new hymn?” And what was wrong with our original? A Twitter user replied to the ad.
“What? I thought we were ALL Americans ?! Now divided by color? What happened to a nation, under God, indivisible? Talk about dividing us…” said another.
Originally called “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the song was written by NAACP frontman James Weldon Johnson in 1900 and was popular among civil rights activists in the 1950s and 1960s.
A Capitol Fourth will air on PBS from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. EST.
The 41st broadcast of the celebration program will also feature Jimmy Buffett, Gladys Knight and Train.