In 1887, the town of LaVilla, with more than 3,000 residents merged with Downtown Jacksonville. With the construction of the Union Terminal in 1919, LaVilla became a major transportation center for Jacksonville as well as home to Jacksonville’s African-American community. For nearly a century, LaVilla saw the growth of major African-American civic, social, church and business groups which are evident in some of the historic buildings still standing. LaVilla was also a cultural center, with entertainers like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles frequently visiting this jazz hotspot.
Also, notable to the African-American community during this period, is James Weldon Johnson an American author, politician and early civil rights advocate. Johnson was born in Jacksonville in 1871 and attended Edwin M. Stanton School, then an African-American school in Jacksonville. Johnson converted Stanton from an elementary school to
a twelve year school for African-Americans.