JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The last remaining piece of a 125-year-old Confederate monument in the heart of downtown Jacksonville was removed over the weekend from James Weldon Johnson Park across the street from Jacksonville’s City Hall, as first reported by the Florida Times-Union.
On June 9, 2020, the statue of a Confederate soldier at the top of the monument was removed overnight by crews using a crane in what was then called Hemming Park. The statue and nameplate were hauled off well before daylight, leaving the empty pedestal, which had remained in place until this weekend, when it too was removed unannounced.
The city released the following statement to News4JAX about the removal:
Parks Director Daryl Joseph worked with the Council Committee on Parks to approve an extra $50 million of park projects in every corner of the city this year. This includes a substantial renovation of James Weldon Johnson Park. The design has been concluded for weeks and the contractor’s work began this weekend.
The three-year redesign for James Weldon Johnson Park -- which was renamed in 2020 -- was approved last August.
A city sign hanging on a chain link fence at the park where the pedestal once stood says work is underway to renovate James Weldon Johnson Park. Construction is projected to be completed this summer, according to the sign.
In 2020, Mayor Lenny Curry ordered the statue’s removal and said he would order the removal of all remaining public Confederate monuments throughout the city, but the heated debate over removing the pedestal in the park and a monument in Springfield Park has continued for nearly three years.
On Monday, the city told News4JAX the mayor was “keeping promises” when it came to removing the pedestal.
Ben Frazier of the Northside Coalition, one of the groups that has advocated strongly for the removal of the monuments, released a statement about the park renovation:
“This removal is a step in the right direction but our efforts will not stop here. We will continue our protests until all Confederate symbols are removed from public property in Jacksonville. These monuments glorify the Confederacy which fought a Civil War to keep Black people in chains! They represent a legacy of white supremacy and racial hatred. We will continue our nonviolent civil disobedience demonstrations at city-owned buildings.”
In March, a group called the Unity Project of Jacksonville had argued to city leaders that the monuments should remain in place but that monuments that give a better representation of Jacksonville’s history should be added, including markers that detail the slave trade and honor Black leaders.
Blake Harper, the lead organizer of the Unity Project, said at the time that he thought it would satisfy both sides of the polarizing debate to contextualize history in the South with respect to African Americans and women.
“We have to honor all of our history. We have to recognize, protect all of our history,” he said in March.
According to the James Weldon Johnson Park website, Friends of James Weldon Johnson Park aims to make the downtown park a dynamic public space for fun, education and relaxation.
The redesign is part of a four-part strategic plan expected to be implemented over the next three years.