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Phillip L. Clay Speaks at UNCW's MLK Celebration

Phillip L. Clay

Wilmington native Phillip L. Clay spoke at last night’s Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration at UNCW.

Clay is a 1964 graduate of Williston High School and the former chancellor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At the event, Clay talked about the origins and the importance of the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” written in 1901.

“James Weldon Johnson wrote the song while he was a principal of a school in Jacksonville, Florida. And he wanted to convey to young people—the grandchildren of slaves—what slavery was like, to emphasize to them that the Emancipation was a victory, that it was a victory that came at the end of a very difficult period.”

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” is sometimes referred to as the “Black National Anthem.”

Past UNCW speakers for the school’s Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration have included civil rights activist Bernice Johnson Reagon, the first African-American woman in space Mae Jamison, and actor Danny Glover.

The audio is an excerpt from WHQR's Jemila Ericson's Midday Interview with Phillip L. Clay.