City turns James Weldon Johnson's birthsite to a park

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.

Published June 22, 2015 in News -

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.

Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing


Lift every voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
let our rejoicing rise,
high as the list'ning skies, let it resound loud as the rolling sea
sing a song full of faith that the dark past has tought us,
sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
bitter the chast'ning rod,
felt in the day that hope unborn had died;
yet with a steady beat,
have not our weary feet,
come to the place on witch our fathers sighed?
we have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
we have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
where the white gleam of our star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
thou who has by thy might,
led us into the light,
keep us forever in the path, we pray
lest our feet stray frm the places, our God, where we met thee,
least our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee,
shadowed beneath the hand,
may we forever stand,
tru to our God,
Tru to our native land.

Article and images by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at

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