August 27, 2020

Rep. Lawson Introduces House Resolution to Honor James Weldon Johnson Park

Resolution Commemorates the 60th Anniversary of Ax Handle Saturday

JACKSONVILLE, FLA. –  U.S. Rep. Al Lawson (FL-05) introduced H.Res.1088 on August 18 to designate James Weldon Johnson Park in Jacksonville, Florida as part of the National Park Service's African American Civil Rights Network.

The site, formerly Hemming Park, stood at the center of the August 27, 1960 race riot — known as Ax Handle Sunday — where a mob of some 200-middle aged and older white men armed with baseball bats and ax handles attacked a group of non-violent, peaceful protestors fighting for integration and equality. 

“Designating James Weldon Johnson Park as part of the National Park Service’s African American Civil Rights Network will pay homage to Jacksonville's early history in America's civil rights movement," Rep. Lawson said. "This national designation would honor local foot soldiers who stood up for justice and those who continue to fight for equality. 

The Ax Handle Saturday attack, occurred five years before 'Bloody Sunday' in Selma, Alabama. This year commemorates the 60th anniversary of Ax Handle Saturday. 

The historic demonstration was led by then-NAACP President Rutledge Pearson and several local youth activists. Rep. Lawson honored Pearson in 2018 by renaming the U.S. Post Office on Kings Road in Jacksonville after the civil rights leader.

Upon passage, James Weldon Johnson Park will become the first Florida park to be included in the National Park Service's African American Civil Rights Network.

H.Res.1088 has 26 co-sponsors. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC); Rep. Donna Shalala (FL-27); Rep. Yvette Clarke (NY-9); Rep. Alcee Hastings (FL-20); Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (MS-2); Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy (MA-4); Rep. Bill Foster (IL-11); Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-8); Rep. Marcia Fudge (OH-11); Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-9); Rep. Andre Carson (IN-7); Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13); Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30); Rep. Gregory Meeks (NY-5); Rep. Val Demings, (FL-10); Rep. Darren Soto (FL-9); Rep. Gwen Moore (WI-4); Rep. Charlie Crist (FL-13); Rep. Daniel Kildee (MI-5); Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME-1); Rep. Danny K. Davis (IL-7); Rep. Jerrold Nadler, (NY-10); Rep. Filemon Vela (TX-34); Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10); Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37); Rep. Kathy Castor (FL-14).