U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, D-Fla., scored a win as the U.S. House passed his proposal to make the birthplace of civil rights leader James Weldon Johnson in Jacksonville a national landmark
Back in February, Lawson brought out the “James Weldon Johnson Historical Preservation Act” to honor the educator, writer and activist who led the NAACP and penned "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing” which the NAACP recognized as the “Negro national anthem” back in 1919.
Born in 1871, Johnson grew up in Jacksonville’s LaVilla neighborhood with his brother, composer John Rosamond Johnson. After earning his college degree in Georgia, James Weldon Johnson returned home and became the principal of Stanton Grade School, where he improved the educational standards of the school’s curriculum. In 1897, while serving as the principal, Johnson became the first African American admitted to the Florida Bar Exam since Reconstruction.
Lawson’s bill cleared the House on a 374-5 vote with 48 members not voting. The five no votes came from libertarian Republican ranks including U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, U.S. Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina and U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky.
“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,” 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.”
Lawson reeled in more than 20 cosponsors for the bill including much of the Florida delegation as Republican U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Bill Posey, John Rutherford and Dan Webster and Democrats U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Stephanie Murphy, Darren Soto, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson backed the legislation.
The bill has been sent to the U.S. Senate which moved it to its Energy Natural Resources Committee.