Effort Underway To Save Jacksonville’s Historic Stanton School
Jacksonville’s historic Old Stanton Highschool Downtown could become a mixed-use facility and community cultural center, if a nonprofit is successful in raising $10 million. The effort includes a virtual fundraiser Wednesday evening, on the birthday of one of the school’s most famous alumni, John Rosamond Johnson.
The Stanton School was constructed in 1868 and became one of the first schools for Black children in the state of Florida.
The Stanton School went through several buildings, and the two that remain are the 104-year-old Old Stanton building— which was condemned by the city last year— and LaVilla’s Stanton College Preparatory School, which continues to be one of the top performing public schools in Florida and the nation.
J. Rosamond Johnson, composer of the hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the Black national anthem, was a student and then a teacher at the Stanton School before either of the still-standing Stanton structures were built.
His world-famous composition made its first debut in Jacksonville, where it was performed live by Stanton School students in 1900 to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
To highlight movements for racial equality in the U.S, the National Football League hosted a performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by Alicia Keys before the national anthem during the regular season last year, as well as this year’s Super Bowl in Tampa.
Old Stanton, at 521 W. Ashley St., was constructed in 1917 after the building Johnson had taught at was deemed unsafe. It was a joint effort between the state, the Stanton School Board and concerned Jacksonville citizens, and it became Duval County and the First Coast’s premiere site of education for Black students, according to the nonprofit Historic Stanton.
The school transferred to a new facility, now the public college preparatory school, in 1953. Old Stanton became a historical landmark in 1983 and has served several uses in the last six decades.
WJCT News partner the Florida Times-Unionreported in January that renovations were delayed after legal complications prevented Jacksonville City Council from deploying tax dollars towards the structure due to questions regarding ownership of the property.
Wednesday, Aug. 11, is the 148th anniversary of Johnson’s birthday, and Historic Stanton is celebrating the occasion with an online live event to highlight the accomplishments of Stanton’s graduates and raise funds to renovate the deteriorating building.
The program lists Johnson’s granddaughter as a guest speaker.
Their GoFundMe profile showed $300 raised out of a $10 million goal, as of Wednesday afternoon.