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MN teacher leads 'Lift Every Voice and Sing' in the Oval Office

Abdul Wright was visiting the White House as Minnesota's 2016 Teacher of the Year.

Abdul Wright, an eighth-grade language arts instructor at The Best Academy, was named Minnesota's Teacher of the Year nearly 12 months ago.

And this week he found himself in the White House. With the president. Leading a group in the singing of "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

Wright joined 54 others teachers of the year from around the country (at least one from every state according to the White House) as President Donald Trump honored the national Teacher of the Year, Sydney Chaffee of Massachusetts.

The teachers all gathered around the president's desk in the Oval Office as he made his remarks.

According to MPR News, after one teacher asked if they could all say the Pledge of Allegiance, Wright asked if they could sing the Black National Anthem "Lift Every Voice and Sing" as well. Here he is talking to MPR News about it:

The Washington Post also wrote about how this year's White House ceremony was "rather weird" compared to previous years, with little discussion among the president and teachers, and family members who came with kept out of the ceremony.

The Best Academy, where Wright teaches, was started in 2008 to focus on the "unique education needs of African-American boys," according to its website.

There are an estimated 875 students enrolled in the school now, and nearly all of them are black. Nine out of every 10 students there qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch, the school's most recent annual report says.

According to PBS, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" was originally written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson. It was first performed on Feb. 12, 1900, after Johnson's brother set it to music – school children sang it in celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birthday. Later on, the NAACP named it its official song, and is described by PBS as "one of the most cherished songs of the African American Civil Rights Movement."

Earlier this month, Education Minnesota named the 11 finalists for the 2017 Minnesota Teacher of the Year. The winner will be announced May 7.

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