Lawson introduces measure to create coin in Johnson’s honor

James Weldon Johnson

Special to the Outlook

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Al Lawson last Thursday 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 every 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 $5 gold coins, $1 silver coins, and half-dollar clad coins using Johnson’s image, all of 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 Congressmen 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 Marshall-Motley Scholars Program, the Stanton College Preparatory School in Jacksonville, Fla., the NAACP, and a nominal amount to the James Weldon Johnson Foundation.

Original co-sponsors of the bill are Rep. Steve Cohen (Tenn) and Rep. Al Green (Texas). 

   Meanwhile, Lawson last Wednesday announced the Infrastructure Law he helped pass will invest $530,838,915 this year to upgrade and expand local transit in Florida. $28,256,068 of these funds have been allocated for local transit projects in Jacksonville and Tallahassee.

This investment will allow our local transit authorities to buy new buses and railcars, address repair backlogs, modernize fleets, and transition to new technologies that reduce carbon emissions.

These funds will also create even more good-paying manufacturing jobs, in addition to the 14,900 manufacturing jobs already created in Florida under President Biden, through Buy America requirements that apply to steel, iron, and other materials necessary for transit projects.

“Today’s announcement is yet another example of how the Infrastructure Law is delivering for Floridians,” Lawson said. “The allocated funding will upgrade and expand our transit systems allowing for the creation of good paying jobs, reduction of commute times, and the ability to connect our communities in Jacksonville, Tallahassee and the surrounding areas.”

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