This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Rep. Al Lawson’s James Weldon Johnson Historical Preservation Act, which designates the birthplace of James Weldon Johnson a national landmark. Johnson, who grew up in Jacksonville’s LaVilla neighborhood, was an educator, activist and the songwriter of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.”
“I am very pleased that members of Congress have supported this bill and are recognizing James Weldon Johnson for the important contributions he made to our nation,” Rep. Lawson said. “This bill will memorialize Mr. Johnson’s birthplace and serve as a reminder to citizens of the ideals of education, equality and leadership – all characteristics this great man exemplified.”
During his lifetime, Johnson served as principal of Stanton Grade School, where he championed improved educational standards in Duval County. While at Stanton School, he wrote “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” as a poem, which his brother later composed into a song. Johnson became the first African American admitted to the Florida Bar Exam since Reconstruction, served in several diplomatic positions abroad and became a leader within Jacksonville’s NAACP.
The James Weldon Johnson Historical Preservation Act will now move to the Senate. There are 22 co-sponsors: Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Florida); Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Florida); Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Florida); Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida); Bill Posey (FL-08), Kathy Castor (D-Florida); Stephanie Murphy (D-Florida); John Rutherford (R-Florida); Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Florida); Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Florida); Daniel Webster (R-Florida); Gregory Meeks (D-Florida); Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Florida); Rep. Val Butler Demings (D-Florida); Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia); Hank Johnson (D-Georgia); Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon); Jim Costa (D-California); Darren Soto (D-Florida); Rep. Donald Payne (D-New Jersey); Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia); Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland).