The year was 1900 and the annual celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on Feb. 12 was being planned in Jacksonville, Florida. Carter J. Woodson, recognized as the father of black History, chose the second week of February for the first week-long celebration in 1926 because it marked the birthdays of two important men: Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery and became an abolitionist and civil rights leader, and Lincoln, signer of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Who else to ask for assistance with the special program, but one of the most prominent educators in the city? James Weldon Johnson, principal of the distinguished (and segregated) Stanton School, was just the man for the occasion.
At 28, Johnson’s credentials were impressive. A graduate and class valedictorian from Atlanta University, he passed the Florida bar — the first African American in the state to do so since Reconstruction — and started an afternoon newspaper, The Daily American.
While principal at Stanton High School, he