Jacksonville looks to rename controversial park named after a confederate soldier
Jacksonville's Hemming Park, in pre COVID-19 times.

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Jacksonville's historical reconsideration continues.

A park steps away from Jacksonville’s City Hall, currently named for a Civil War veteran and Confederate enthusiast, may be renamed after a leading figure in Black history.

City Councilman Garrett Dennis, a Democrat in his second term, filed a bill Wednesday that would rename the current Hemming Park after James Weldon Johnson.

Hemming Park is named after Charles Hemming, a confederate Civil War veteran.

The proposal comes at a time when Jacksonville, like countless other cities, is reconsidering the iconography of a racist past that has facilitated the institutional racism of today.

“Not only was James Weldon Johnson born and raised in Jacksonville, he has become a historic public figure, known for his famous song, ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing’,” Dennis said.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) declared the song the Black National Anthem more than a century ago, with lyrics heralding God’s deliverance from the “gloomy past” and “weary years” experienced long before and since by Black Americans.

“I think this is a perfect time and way to honor Mr. Johnson, particularly at a time where everyone simply wants to lift their voices and be heard. In addition, today marks his 149th birthday. It is an honor to memorialize him through this piece of legislation,” Dennis added.

The legislation comes at a momentous time, in which Hemming Park has been central. If the renaming is adopted, the renamed park would be the second commemoration for Johnson, joining “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park” in the Durkeeville neighborhood.

Last week, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry ordered the city’s most high-profile Confederate monument removed. It was installed by Hemming to honor the confederate cause more than a century ago.

Hours after the 62-foot monument to the seditionist movement was moved, Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams marched with Black Lives Matter protesters, atypical moves for two Republicans.

The city is poised to remove all Civil War iconography, and the Duval County School Board has set a course for its own historical reconsideration, beginning a process to rename seven schools currently memorializing the names of Confederate field commanders and the former President of the breakaway government.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


8 comments

  • Racism in Jacksonville

    June 17, 2020 at 1:38 pm

    this is what we have come to, take down something because it offends the minority, and then change the name of a park to another person, that many people will find offensive. Garrett Dennis in my opinion is a Racist. I have known that for years. Lets just wipe all history from Jacksonville, take down memorials, street names, building names, etc.. so we have no knowledge of our past, that is how you destroy a people. Racism is live and well in Jacksonville, and blacks are the racists

  • Lift My Voice

    June 17, 2020 at 1:55 pm

    Shut the hell up Seber! Now you want to pout because the divisive monument that stood in Hemming Plaza for years is gone and may possibly be named after someone who stood for unity and equality! YOU are the epitome of a racists, but it’s better to call that crap history??? Sorry, not sorry, but you can’t embrace only the hateful parts of history!!!!

  • Frankie M.

    June 17, 2020 at 2:18 pm

    Who’s gonna find JWJ park racist besides Seber? Maybe time up the legislation for next year on JWJ’s 150th bday celebration? But alas this is much ado about nuthin. This is a nonstarter for Dennis because Lenny will never give him a win unless he wants to rename Hemming Plaza Lenny Curry Park.

  • Racism in Jacksonville

    June 17, 2020 at 2:52 pm

    I meant to say, in my humble opinion , that Garret Dennis is a racists.. I remember when Aaron Bowman called him Mr. Insignificant, but now, they will probably sit down and eat fried chicken and watermelon together lol

  • Sonja Fitch

    June 17, 2020 at 2:56 pm

    Another common good decision! When do we change the JACKSONVILLE !

  • Steve G.

    June 17, 2020 at 3:00 pm

    Whoa. You people are far too concerned with what happened hundreds of years ago and that has no relevance now. Those of you who continue to spout the term do so as a crutch and as an excuse.

    “Racist” is the modern term used to call others by people who have failed (or insufficiently tried) to succeed on their own through education, acquiring marketable skills, and using them. You are not guaranteed an outcome–you are guaranteed an equal footing.

    You have had an equal footing for many decades. Some have taken advantage of it and succeeded.

    Many have not and have been taken over by a mindset of entitlement and “poor little me.” You have chosen to follow the professional victims of the country who have become your leaders. They have encouraged you to break with civilized society by lawbreaking including riots in the streets, lootings, shootings, and more. But only they get the positive publicity and the book deals. Nobody knows your names. You are the ones that most people shake their heads at when seeing you smash car windows and consider to be jerks.

    Leave the statues alone and direct your energies to constructive activities. Like obtaining an education, working, speaking intelligibly, raising an intact family with two parents, and learning the true meaning of living in a free and civilized country.

    • Frankie M.

      June 17, 2020 at 8:43 pm

      I guess we all know Steve’s not black.

  • Steve G.

    June 17, 2020 at 9:53 pm

    Frankie–What difference does it make? There goes the race stuff again–making assumptions about a commenter for disagreeing with and objecting to unacceptable behavior.

    Do you support the activity that I described in my post, or was I mistaken in the way I described it?

Comments are closed.


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