April 07, 2022

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson introduces the James Weldon Johnson Commemorative Coin Act Honoring Renowned Lyricist

WASHINGTON, D.C.  Today, US. Rep. Al Lawson (FL-05) introduced the James Weldon Johnson Commemorative Coin Act that would honor the life and accomplishments of James Weldon Johnson by creating commemorative coins with his image. Johnson, a Jacksonville native, is the writer of the Black National Anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” He also made transformative contributions to the Civil Rights Movement, the Harlem Renaissance, literature, politics, education, and law.

The James Weldon Johnson Commemorative Coin Act would direct the Department of the Treasury to mint and issue $1 silver coins using Johnson’s image which would be legal tender.

“James Weldon Johnson was undoubtedly a leader in the community,” Rep. Lawson said. “He was dedicated to implementing social justice and educating the youth. His commitment to uplift his community and evoke change laid the foundation for several people to follow.” 

After completing college, Johnson returned to Jacksonville to serve as principal of the Stanton College Preparatory School. He expanded the school to include Florida’s first high school for African Americans, which opened in 1898. During this period, Johnson was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1897. He became the first African American to pass the Florida Bar since the Reconstruction Era.

“The James Weldon Johnson Foundation would like to thank Congressman Lawson for leading this effort to advance the legacy of James Weldon Johnson,” said Rufus Jones, President of the James Weldon Johnson Foundation. “Johnson used his talents as a diplomat, lawyer and artist to protect American citizens, and he dedicated his public service to others by protecting their physical safety, individual rights, and financial well-being. A Treasury Department commemorative coin is an elegant way to celebrate Johnson, a founding member of American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) who worked to ensure that musicians and creators are fairly compensated for their musical contributions.” 

All surcharges received by the Treasury would be paid equally to the James Weldon Johnson Foundation and the Historic Stanton, Inc.