James Weldon Johnson (center) with friend Bob Cole (left) and brother Rosamond (right)
After the Cummer Museum’s exhibition, the time has come for Augusta Savage’s “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” to be re-born in Jacksonville - the birthplace of its poetic inspiration. Not just to celebrate three of the Jacksonville’s daughter and sons, but as a gift to America.
And Jacksonville has the perfect location for a new bronze version of the sculpture: Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park in La Villa*. The 1.35 acre park was dedicated in 2015 on the birthplace of the Johnson brothers – authors of the song. Designing the park around Savage’s sculpture leads the way for La Villa, provides a public meeting ground for past and future civil rights, and creates a designation for all cultural travelers.
The making of Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing by Augusta Savage (The Crisis 1939)
If you don’t know, here’s the story?
Augusta Savage, James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson were among thousands of African Americans who left Jacksonville for New York City as a part of the Great Migration during the early 20th century. They blossomed in the artistic and political spirit of the Harlem Renaissance among artist like Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes and Duke Ellington. James Weldon Johnson wrote poetry for The Crisis and supported the aspirations of African Americans at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as its executive secretary. His brother John Rosamond Johnson composed musicals and sang in the clubs. Augusta Savage sculpted the people she knew and taught future great visual artists like Jacob Lawrence.
As a successful New York artist, the 1939 World’s Fair committee invited Savage to make a sculpture. She imagined the “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” monument - a work of art unique to Savage herself and to the world. In 1939 for any African-American, female visual artist to be celebrated was - well - surprising.
Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing at the 1939 World’s Fair (The Crisis 1939)