Groundbreaking Held For LaVilla's Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing Park

Feb 24, 2021

After years of planning, a groundbreaking was held Wednesday for the future Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park in LaVilla near Downtown Jacksonville.

As part of the public-private partnership, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund has announced a formal fundraising campaign for the project and overall commitments of $2.5 million for park development and programming.

Phase one of Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park development includes two parts: construction on Lee Street that will begin in early spring to tie the park into the outdoor destination project known as the Emerald Trail and finalizing the park's design and engineering to prepare to bid the park for construction.

Major funding announced for the public-private park partnership includes:

  • $1 million from the duPont Fund to support park development and programming. This commitment is in addition to the $100,000 the duPont Fund has already contributed to park planning.
  • $1 million from The Chartrand Family, which includes commissioning a copy of Augusta Savage’s renowned statue Lift Every Voice and Sing (The Harp).
  • $500,000 from TIAA and TIAA Bank for park development and future programming activities 

In addition, $710,000 has already been committed to the project by the city of Jacksonville, the duPont Fund and Walter Hood, the renowned landscape architect and 2019 recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” who designed the park. 

The park will be located at 120 Lee Street, where Jacksonville natives James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson were born. The Johnson brothers wrote and composed the song "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," frequently referred to as the Black or Negro National Anthem, at their LaVilla home at the turn of the 20th century.

The former Hemming Park, across the street from Jacksonville’s City Hall, was also renamed in honor of James Weldon Johnson last summer. James Weldon Johnson Park’s renaming followed protests and the removal of a Confederate monument.

The final design and contractor selection for Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park is scheduled for fall of 2021 and construction is expected to wrap up by fall of 2022.

Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park will be linked to 15 other historic neighborhoods and Downtown Jacksonville through the Emerald Trail project, which will eventually encompass approximately 30 miles of trails, greenways and parks encircling the urban core.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.