James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)

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James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) wrote six books of poetry and four books of prose. While attending Atlanta University, he took a trip to Georgia, where he developed a passion for the African American folk tradition. After graduating college, he worked as a high school principal in Jacksonville. Johnson wrote the song “Life Ev’ry Voice and Sing” for Lincoln’s birthday, which became extremely popular in African American circles. He then moved to New York to work with his brother, who was a composer. After experiencing some success in Broadway, he worked as U.S. Consul to Venezuela starting in 1906. During this time, his poetry was published in The Century Magazine and The Independent. He also worked as editorial page editor of the black-owned weekly newspaper New York Age. He gained much recognition for his work there, and moved to Washington, DC in 1916 to become the national organizer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (the NAACP) and edited The Book of American Negro Poetry. His poetry was considered part of the Harlem Renaissance, as it dealt largely with the common African American experience. Johnson's books of poems include: To a Friend (1892), Lift Every Voice and Sing (1899), O Black and Unknown Bards (1908), Fifty Years (1917), and God's Trombones (1927). He is also the author of the fictional The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912), and edited The Book of American Negro Poetry (1922) and The Book of American Negro Spirituals (1925).

http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/72 AND http://www.florida-arts.org/programs/ahf/displayArtist.cfm?member=17 Beltway Poetry Quarterly: http://www.beltwaypoetry.com/poetry/poets/names/johnson-james-weldon/ DC Writers’ Homes: http://dcwriters.poetrymutual.org/pages/johnsonjw.html

Written by Monica Root November 2013


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