City turns James Weldon Johnson's birthsite to a park

June 22, 2015 15 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

LaVilla has a new park within a stone's throw of the Prime Osborn Convention Center. “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” Park is located at the intersection of Houston and Lee Streets. This is the birthsite of James Weldon Johnson. Here's a look at downtown's latest park.

James Weldon Johnson

On this site, in a small frame house, James Weldon Johnson was born on June 17, 1871. He was the first African-American to pass the State Bar Exam in Florida, the first African-American Secretary of the NAACP, and a noted educator, author, diplomat, and poet. Johnson was instrumental in the creation of Stanton High School as the first public high school in Florida for African-Americans, and he served as its principal. He wrote several books of poetry, including "God's Trombones" and his best-known work, "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing", which was adopted as the "Negro National Anthem" by the NAACP.

John Rosamond Johnson

On this site, in a small frame house, John Rosamond Johnson was born on August 11, 1873. Rosamond was a genuine prodigy, teaching himself piano by age 4. In 1890, he attended the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. He then later studied music in London as well.

In 1900, he put the words of his brother's poem, "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" to music. This became first the unofficial, then official Black National Anthem.

Rosamond moved to New York after 1900, where he became a very successful songwriter, composer, author, and performer. He wrote over 200 popular songs and four operattas. Additionally, he arranged over 150 Negro spirtuals and authored four books.

John Rosamond Johnson's works are enshirned in a Special Collection at Yale University.

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